The Patient's Guide to Enteral Therapy

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Enteral Nutrition Therapy refers to the utilization of a feeding tube to deliver nutrition directly into the stomach or small intestine when a patient is unable to get adequate nutrition and hydration by mouth but still has a functioning gut.

According to Nationwide Inpatient Survey’s (NIS) latest available statistics, over 400,000 patients receive enteral nutrition therapy at home.

What Is Enteral Nutrition Therapy?

Enteral Nutrition Therapy refers to the utilization of a feeding tube to deliver nutrition directly into the stomach or small intestine when a patient is unable to  get adequate nutrition and hydration by mouth but still has a functioning gut. Feeding tubes can be surgically placed through the skin and peritoneum  into the stomach or small intestine. They can also be placed through the nose into either the stomach or the small intestine. Your practitioner will determine the most appropriate feeding tube for you. The feeding tube is the device that allows a patient to get nutrition and hydration via enteral nutrition therapy.

Types of Feeding Tubes

Depending on your particular medical condition and your nutritional needs, you may be a candidate for several types of feeding tubes. 

Nasogastric tube: a flexible device that is inserted through the nostril, down the esophagus and into the stomach. One advantage of nasogastric tubes is that they can be removed and replaced when needed. They are typically placed when the need for enteral nutrition is anticipated to be less than 6 weeks, as a temporary method until a gastrostomy tube can be placed, or if there are contraindications to surgically placing a gastrostomy tube. 

Nasoenteric tube: a flexible device that is inserted through the nostril, down the esophagus and into the small intestine. A nasoduodenal tube gets placed into the duodenum and a nasojejunal tube gets placed into the jejunum. 

These tubes are typically placed when the need for enteral nutrition is anticipated to be less than 6 weeks, as a temporary tube until a gastrostomy tube can be placed, or if there are contraindications to surgically placing a gastrostomy tube.

Gastrostomy tube: a tube that is placed directly into the stomach. These tubes are placed surgically and can be done under either general, local, or regional anesthesia. 

Jejunostomy tube: a tube that is placed directly into the jejunum, which is part of the small intestine. These tubes are placed surgically. These procedures are more complicated and are placed for patients who have contraindications for placing a gastrostomy tube. Like the gastrostomy tube, whether used intermittently or all the time, the jejunostomy tube is intended to remain in place for the long term, or until your medical or surgical problem is resolved.

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