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Thriving with a Feeding Tube


By Kathleen Stoessel, RN, BSN, MS

As a nurse you may have assisted with the placement or maintenance of a feeding tube. What you may not have seen is how some patients can not only survive on a feeding tube, but thrive.

To date, roughly half a million people in the United States rely on feeding tubes and that number is expected to rise by eight percent over the next three years. Despite their prevalence, many still have misconceptions about feeding tubes and think of them as an end-of-life option, rather than a tool that can help people of all ages thrive.

It has been recognized that the field of interventional tube feeding is expanding rapidly. This has led to a profusion of enteral access techniques, specialized feeding tubes and liquid formula diets. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for nurses to keep abreast of new developments that impact the optimal selection and care of enteral feeding tubes.

Due to the wide variety of feeding tubes available, and the variety of complications associated with their use, nurses should be proactive in the use and development of best practices. Through the adoption of professional standards of practice, along with facility-wide promotion of protocols, a facility and its caregivers can promote successful outcomes. Ways to facilitate this include:

•           Establish policies, procedures and methods to improve consistency and promote successful outcomes by all healthcare providers.

•           Provide ongoing education and in service

•           Begin discharge planning early with the patient

One type of enteral feeding tube is the MIC-KEY low-profile gastrostomy tube (g-tube) manufactured by Kimberly-Clark. The MIC-KEY passes through a surgical opening, known as a stoma, into the stomach. The MIC-KEY* is placed by a surgeon and is easy to keep clean and change. Users receive nutrition by inserting a formula, prescribed by a physician, through the tube and directly into the stomach. MIC-KEY* patients frequently comment on how they feel like the tube has given them more confidence because it’s a very small button which can easily be hidden. In fact, many people don’t even realize the tube is there. 

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