Feeding Tube Complications

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Food consumption is one of the most important activities of a person's day---if this task is not done, a person can be unable to function fully or can forfeit his life. Being able to eat also provides pleasure to an individual. Unfortunately, there are instances where an individual cannot ingest drinks or food orally, either because of a psychological issue or because of a physical condition. In such instances, the insertion of a feeding tube into the stomach can ensure that the individual doesn't succumb to a lack of nutrition. However, feeding tubes carry with them a plethora of potential complications. A handful of those complications are addressed below.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting is a common problem with feeding tubes. It occurs when liquid food is administered to an individual through a tube too quickly, or when the formula provided through the tube is too high in protein and/or calories. Migration (shifting) of the tube, bacterial infections and air in the stomach can cause nausea and vomiting as well.


Leakage is a complication of feeding tubes that occurs typically because the size of the stoma around the tube has increased, or because the position of the tube is improper due to bad placement or general shifting. This problem sometimes requires replacement of the tube, and it forces an individual or attending physician to keep the stoma clean with protective gauze and ointment.


Constipation occurs frequently with feeding tubes because the liquids that are administered through the tubes don't always have as much bulk or fiber as normal foods. Without fiber, an individual's digestive system has trouble retaining enough fluid and staying regular enough to produce frequent bowel movements. This problem means that the individual either has to find a way to introduce liquids that are higher in fiber through the tube (which can increase the risk of the tube clogging), or she has to take medications to relieve constipation.


Aspiration can occur if an individual is administered food through a feeding tube while in an improper position. This can result in choking, coughing and pneumonia. These, in turn, can aggravate the stoma, because the abdominal wall is forced to engage forcefully during a cough or sneeze. The aggravation of the stoma can lead to further infection.


Gastroesophageal reflux (aka heartburn, caused from gastric juices being forced back into the esophagus) can occur with feeding tubes because the tubes sometimes cause a delay in the emptying of the stomach. This means that a person has to have more frequent, smaller feedings.

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