Tube Feeding Explained

What is a feeding tube?

Feeding tubes are used to supply nutrition when the individual cannot get it through oral intake.

Are there different kinds of feeding tubes?


There are surgical and non-surgical tubes. Non-surgical tubes that are inserted into the nose and then down the throat into the stomach or intestines. : NG (nasogastric), NJ (nasojejunal), ND, ND (nasoduadenal). Surgical tubes are placed with a hole into the abdomen.

You can find more information on different types of tubes and what is the best type of tube for you here.



Are feeding tubes permanent?

Surgical tubes are more long lasting than nasal tubes, but no. The tube itself must be replaced periodically, and both surgical tubes and nasal tubes can be removed at any point. With a surgical tube, once the tube itself is removed, the stoma will close.

If a feeding tube goes past your stomach, do you still absorb nutrition?

Yes. Tubes that bypass the stomach (ND, NJ, J tubes) often go into the small intestine, which still absorbs. There are certain medications that must be taken into the stomach, but even the majority of medications can be absorbed in the small intestine.

Can you still eat with a feeding tube?

This is a commonly asked questions A feeding tube does not prevent an individual from eating. However, the disorder they may be receiving the feeding tube for might. Example: feeding tubes can be used when people are getting chemotherapy and have trouble eating enough to maintain weight. In this case, the patient can eat, and the feeding tube is there for supplementation when they cannot. However, there are other examples where people are completely tube dependent, and cannot eat.

What is TPN and PPN?

These are different forms of intravenous nutrition, for individuals who for whatever reason cannot tolerate enteral (into the digestive tract) feeds. TPN stands for total parenteral nutrition, and is done through a central line, such as a port, PICC line, or Hickman. PPN is peripheral parenteral nutrition, which can be done through a peripheral vein. Individuals can rely on TPN completely, versus PPN cannot cover all the nutrition. Parenteral nutrition includes electrolytes, minerals, glucose, and fats. PPN is not preferred for long periods of time, and both mixtures are caustic on the veins. TPN contains higher concentrations of nutrients. You can read more about the difference here.

The risks of TPN can include liver damage, complications related to central lines (like infections or clots), glucose abnormalities, gallbladder complications, and others. Because of this, TPN is often considered a last resort.

What is the difference between TPN and enteral feeds?

TPN goes directly to the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract entirely. Enteral feeds go into the digestive tract. Sometimes patients will be on a mixture of TPN and enteral feeds.

I need a feeding tube, but have a lot of allergies. Are there hypoallergenic formulas?

Yes. There are amino acid based formulas that are extremely broken down. But ultimately, formulas tend to be very trial and error based. You can find more information on that here.

I’m tube fed. What are some ideas for surviving restaurants and gatherings?

You don’t realize how much the world revolves around food until you can’t eat. There’s a fantastic article that has some ideas for being at a gathering and not being able to eat the food that is there.



Where can I go to find more information on feeding tubes and TPN?

The Oley Foundation is a national, independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that strives to enrich the lives of patients dependent on home intravenous nutrition (parenteral) and tube feeding (enteral) through education, advocacy, and networking. The Foundation also serves as a resource for consumer’s families, clinicians and industry representatives, and other interested parties. Programs are directed by the staff and guidance is provided by a board of dedicated professionals and patients.

The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation is a great resource that is dedicated to providing pragmatic information for parents and caregivers on handling every aspect of tube feeding and navigating day-to-day life with a child who is tube-fed.

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