This is a tube that goes into the stomach wall. It enables a person to be given food and drink if they are unable to eat all they need by mouth, by passing food directly into the stomach via the tube.

Why might I need one?

Some people with neuromuscular conditions find that they can only eat very slowly due to the shape of their mouths or weakness affecting their chewing and swallowing muscles. Mealtimes can take a long time and eating can become a chore that takes up too much of their day. It can also lead to arguments between children and their parents. Many families describe mealtimes as stressful rather than enjoyable. The use of a gastrostomy tube (gtube) can reduce these problems and ensure that the person is always well fed without it taking too much time and effort. Some people with neuromuscular conditions have specific problems with swallowing. Food or drink may go down the wrong way so that instead of going down to the stomach, it goes down the wrong tube into the lungs. This is called aspiration. If this happens often, the person is prone to chest infections and finds it hard to put on weight. A g-tube is a simple and very effective way of avoiding these problems as the food can go straight into the stomach.

How do they put in a G-tube?

This depends on each individual and the team will decide the best way depending on how old the person is, how good their breathing is and what sort of tube they are going to have. Fitting the g-tube usually requires a short surgical operation that lasts about 30 minutes and usually requires a general anaesthetic. During the surgery, a hole (stoma) about the diameter of a small pencil, is cut in the skin and into the stomach. The stomach is gently attached to the abdominal wall. The g-tube is then fitted into the stoma. It is a special tube held in place by a disc or water filled balloon that has a valve inside allowing food to go in, but nothing to come out. The hole can be made in two ways. One way uses a tube with a light on the end (endoscope). This is put into the mouth and fed down the gullet (oesophagus) into the stomach. The light shines through the skin showing the surgeon where to make the hole. The other way does not use the endoscope, instead a small opening is made in the tummy so the surgeon can see to put the tube in the right place. This results in a small scar next to the g-tube. Both of these are classed as minor operations.

Will it hurt?

There will be slight discomfort after the operation but this can be dealt with using ordinary painkillers. Once it has healed you will hardly feel it is in there.

What is inside my tummy?

The tube needs either a disc or water filled with balloon to keep it in place. This is attached to the tube and sits just inside your tummy. The g-tube can be easily removed by a trained person.

What does a g-tube looks like?

There are various different types. The two main ones are a PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) or a button. The PEG is a length of tubing with a valve at the end. Sometime this is put in first until the stoma site has healed well. It can then be replaced with a button. A button looks very much like the small valve that is used to inflate a child’s beach-ball or a lilo. It is made of clear, soft plastic and sits right next to the skin. A length of tubing is connected at feed times to pass food in.