Gastrostomy: Permanent And Temporary
This is surgery to place a tube through the abdomen and into the stomach. Gastrostomy can be done as:
- Endoscopic procedure: a more common and less invasive procedure called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG)
- Open procedure: an incision is made in the abdomen
Reasons for Procedure
A gastrostomy tube provides an alternative feeding site. It may be needed to:
- Feed a person who has a hard time sucking or swallowing or is otherwise unable to eat
- Drain the stomach of acid and fluids that have built up
If you are planning to have gastrostomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Aspiration—accidental sucking into the airways of fluid, food, or any foreign material
- Damage to other organs
- Anesthesia-related problems
- Skin irritation around the tube
- Dislodging or malfunctioning of the tube
Complications are more common in older adults. Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Obesity or diabetes
- Smoking, alcohol abuse, or drug use
- Use of certain prescription medications
- Prior abdominal surgeries
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
- Medical history
- Review of medications
- Physical exam
- Assessment of swallowing ability
- Blood and urine tests
- X-rays of the abdomen
- Endoscopic examination of stomach—An endoscope is a long tube with a camera at the end that can be put down the throat into the stomach.
Leading up to your procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Avoid food or fluids after midnight before surgery.
- Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
If you are unable to undergo PEG, this will be done as an open procedure. In some cases, gastrostomy may be done at the same time as another stomach surgery. An incision will be made through the skin, abdominal wall, and into the stomach. A tube will then be placed through the skin and into the stomach. This tube will be stitched in place. The incision will be closed.
Immediately After Procedure
The doctor will make sure that the tube is placed correctly. You will be moved to the recovery room and monitored closely.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain after the surgery. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is several days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
- Depending on your condition, you may need to get nutrition through an IV for the first day or two after the tube placement or until your intestine is working normally. You will then be started on clear liquids. You will gradually move to thicker liquids.
- Learn how to administer tube feedings. Also, learn how to flush out your tube. This will decrease the risk of blockages.
- Learn what to do if you have a serious complication such as a dislodged tube or aspiration.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site around the tube
- Problems with the tube, including if it becomes dislodged, clogged, or malfunctions; dislodging is most common during the first two weeks that the tube is in place
- Leaking of feedings around the site of the tube
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or abdominal swelling
- Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement
- Severe abdominal pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Gastroenterology
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Central venous access catheters (CVAC) and gastrostomy (feeding) tubes. Society of Interventional Radiology website. Available at: http://www.sirweb.org/patients/gastrostomy/. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Gastrostomy tube (g-tube). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgery/g_tube.html. Updated March 2013. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Gastrostomy tube (g-tube) home care. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/g/g-tube-care/. Updated June 2012. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.