Gastric feeding tubes are used to prolong life when patients cannot swallow food, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. They are used both short and long term, when trauma, surgery or progressive illness inhibit swallowing. Long-term life expectancy can be affected by the severity of the patient's illness, the type of gastric tube used and how well the tube is maintained.
According to the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging, feeding tubes are meant to prolong life, but the site notes that patients do not gain back lost weight or physically improve while being tube-fed. Some twenty to thirty per cent of patients who received gastric feeding tubes have a life expectancy of a month, according to the AGS Foundation; over fifty per cent of patients die within twelve months.
Types of Tubes
Gastric feeding tubes include “nasogastric tubes”—inserted through the nose, “oro-gastric” tubes—inserted through the mouth and the G-Tube, or gastric feeding tube, inserted directly into the stomach. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, proper tube insertion and maintenance are both factors in long-term survival.
A G-tube is inserted into the stomach using surgery, according to a Family Caregiver Alliance. This open incision remains a significant infection risk in a seriously ill patient.
Another survival factor is the condition of the gastric tube. The feeding apparatus must be properly maintained, or conditions such as aspiration pneumonia can occur, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a nasogastric tube becomes displaced and liquid nutrient spills into the lungs, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. According to the Mayo Clinic, even a small amount of inhaled liquid nutrient can cause this type of pneumonia, which can shorten life expectancy.