Giving extra nutrition by tube can relieve the pressure at mealtimes when trying to eat and drink enough and can help a child to gain weight and grow. For individuals with swallowing difficulties it can protect the airway from aspiration by putting the food/liquids straight in to the stomach, avoiding swallowing. There are two different ways of tube feeding:
1) Nasogastric feeding (NGT) is recommended for a child who needs short term tube feeding (4-6 weeks). A nasogastric tube passes up the nose down the throat and into the stomach. Usually this is not an acceptable solution for long term use, although sometime it can be well tolerated.
The advantages of nasogastric feeding are that it can provide extra nutrition during times of acute illness and therefore aid recovery. Disadvantages are that the tube can cause a sore nose, ulceration and irritation of the throat or food-pipe. Reflux can get worse as the muscle at the top of the stomach can’t close tightly with the tube in place. The tube can move and come out of the stomach. If an individual is tube-fed when the tube is not in the stomach it can cause problems. An nasogastric tube is also very visible and its purpose can be misunderstood by other people.
2) Feeding via a gastrostomy tube, that goes directly into the stomach, is the most successful option for longer term tube feeding.
See Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Gastrostomy fact sheet for further information.
Adequate feeding and nutrition is essential for all children. We need to monitor growth and feeding difficulties carefully to make sure we are providing the best support and advice to compensate for any problems individuals may have.
Do raise any concerns you have with your or your child’s feeding with your Consultant or a member of their team.
With thanks to staff and patients from the Paediatric Neuromuscular Team at the Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust for their support and help in producing this fact sheet.