Types of Feeding Tubes and Their Uses

A plastic feeding tube is a medical device used to feed people who cannot safely eat or drink by mouth. This problem may be due to difficulty swallowing, altered mental status, or other issues that make eating a challenge.

There are many types of feeding tubes used for different reasons, some are temporary and some are permanent. If you need to decide on feeding tubes for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to have good information about them.

This article looks at the types of feeding tubes, how they fit, and why they are needed.

Uses of feeding tubes

The purpose of feeding tubes is not only to ensure hard to swallow, People who cannot swallow or chew are fed. The most common uses of feeding tubes include:

  • Provide nutrition: Food in liquid form can be given through a feeding tube. Tube feeding or enteral nutrition can provide the carbohydrates, protein, and fats needed to support the body.
  • Provide fluids: Water given through a feeding tube can keep a person hydrated without the need for intravenous fluids.
  • Delivering medicines: The medicines you need can be given through a feeding tube, including many pills and tablets. Their contents can be powdered and mixed with water for administration.
  • Decompress the stomach: Some feeding tubes can be used to remove air from the stomach. The suction attached to the tube removes gas, reducing bloating (enlargement) and bloating.
  • Clearing stomach contents: Undigested food in the stomach can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and bloating. Suction can be used to remove liquids and food particles.

Reasons to use a feeding tube

The body does a better job by delivering artificial nutrients and fluids into the blood vessels by delivering food to the gut instead of intravenously. It is safer and healthier for a person to receive food and liquids in their stomach for normal digestion.

Difficulty swallowing can cause a person to choke on food and liquids. They may “go the wrong way” and be sucked into the lungs through the windpipe, rather than into the esophagus, which leads to the stomach. This can lead to serious illness, including aspiration pneumonia.

Some people may be too sick to swallow. They may need a ventilator to keep breathing, which is a tracheal tube placed in the airway to prevent them from swallowing. Even fully awake people may lose the ability to swallow. Diseases like oral cancer may require the use of a feeding tube.


With many health conditions, people may need a feeding tube, which may prevent them from swallowing food and water safely. There are other uses for feeding tubes. They provide fluids and food in liquid form, but also provide medication. These tubes also allow air and stomach contents to be aspirated when needed.

decision to place a feeding tube

The decision to place a feeding tube is not solely based on medical factors. The situation is further complicated when a person’s medication or illness prevents them from expressing their wishes.

They also may not have shared these wishes with you and the medical team before, or left you with an advance directive explaining the type of care they want in this situation. This may allow families and health care providers to discuss options on behalf of loved ones.

In some cases, a decision about placing a feeding tube can actually mean two decisions.That’s because feeding tubes are usually placed at the same tracheotomy Already done. This hole in the throat allows long-term use of a ventilator to support breathing after initial intubation of the trachea.

Feeding Tube Type

The type of feeding tube used depends on the cause of the problem. Some are temporary and only safe to use for about 14 days.Permanent damage may occur if used for extended periods of time throat (voice box) and tissue in the throat or esophagus.

Others are meant to be long-term, or even permanent. They can be used for months or even years during their lifetime. They can be removed as needed without causing the same complications.

short-term feeding tube

Nasogastric tube (NG): This type of tube is inserted into the nose and down the throat. It is passed into the esophagus and stays in the stomach. It can stay in place for four to six weeks before being completely removed or replaced with a long-term feeding tube.

Orogastric (OG) tube: This is the same type of tube as the NG tube, but it is inserted into the mouth. It then follows the same path through the throat and esophagus, and into the stomach. It can last up to two weeks before being removed or replaced.

long-term feeding tube

Gastric tube (G tube): The G tube goes directly into the stomach through a surgical incision on the upper left side of the abdomen. This means it bypasses the mouth and throat completely. It allows food, liquids and medicines to be given without swallowing.

Jejunostomy tube (J tube): Like the G tube, the J tube is placed through an abdominal incision.But this incision is placed below the G tube, so the tube ends in the middle third of the small intestine, called jejunum. It tends to be smaller than a G tube, so only thin liquids and powdered medicines can pass through it.

Temporary feeding tubes work in much the same way, with the tube ending either in the stomach (G tube) or further into the small intestine (J tube).

Some G tubes are placed using the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) technique. This means that gastroenterologists who specialize in digestive disorders will use a light-emitting instrument called an endoscope to pass a G tube through a surgical hole in the stomach. It has a camera that allows them to see and confirm the location.

Placement Procedure

It doesn’t take long to put a feeding tube in. Some people who will stay awake during surgery require anesthesia, but this is often not the case for critically ill patients who require sedation and require intensive care.

The endoscope is passed from the mouth into the stomach. Healthcare providers can see the lighted tip of the endoscope and tell them where to make a small incision. This is about half an inch long. Then pass the G-tube through and secure in place.

The cap on the tube can be opened and food and liquids can be injected directly into the stomach. With good tube care, the incision will close tightly around the tube and prevent leaks in just a few days.

If the skin is irritated by the oozing fluid, an ointment can help protect it. Washing the area with soap and water is usually all the care it needs.


There are two types of feeding tubes: those intended for short-term use can only be left in place for a few weeks before they need to be removed or replaced. Long-term tubes are safe for permanent use, but putting them in place is a bit complicated.

dismantling procedure

The procedure for removal depends on whether it is a temporary or permanent feeding tube.

Temporary feeding tube removal

This is a simple and quick procedure to remove a temporary feeding tube. Any irritation to the mouth, throat and nose is usually minimal.

Syringes are used to empty tubes of food and liquids. It then takes a few seconds to remove the tube and verify that it is done safely.

permanent feeding tube removal

Some people may regain the ability to eat and drink enough, even if their tube is considered permanent. The decision to do this usually depends on whether you have maintained your weight for a month with a feeding tube, although some healthcare providers may need more time.

The extraction process is similar to a temporary tube, but requires more force. It may also cause more pain, and small amounts of blood are not uncommon. These problems were quickly resolved.

The incision used to place the tube usually closes within a week of removal.


Feeding tubes are used to ensure that people who cannot swallow can still get the nutrients, fluids and medicines they need. The need for a tube may be temporary or it may be related to a chronic condition such as stroke or cancer.

The type of tube depends on the conditions and how long it takes. Short-term tubes like NG and OG should come out within a few weeks or they will start to cause permanent damage. Tubes that have been used for a long time, such as G-tubes or J-tubes, should remain – although in some cases they may also be removed one day.

The process of placing and removing these tubes is very simple, although there are usually some minor effects after removing tubes intended for long-term use.

VigorTip words

The decision to use a feeding tube is up to you or a loved one. One way to ensure these wishes are known and retained is to discuss and write them down ahead of time. Health care providers and legal counsel can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why would someone need a feeding tube?

    There are several reasons why someone may need a feeding tube. They can include short-term use, such as when illness or injury prevents them from being safely swallowed. They are also used to manage long-term illnesses such as cancer, chronic stomach or digestive disorders, feeding or eating disorders, and end-of-life conditions.

  • Why are there different types of feeding tubes?

    Some feeding tubes, such as orogastric (OG) and nasogastric (NG), are for short-term use only. They can start causing tissue damage in as little as two weeks. Other tubes, such as G-tubes and J-tubes, can last longer and even last forever.

  • How do I make feeding tube decisions for a loved one?

    It’s hard to do. It depends on how your loved one expresses their wishes, as well as your discussions with health care providers and family members. The decision is easier to make if you have a solid understanding of the benefits and risks of placing a feeding tube.