Gastrostomy: Permanent and Temporary
A gastrostomy makes a new path for food to enter the body. A tube is placed through the belly and into the stomach. It may only be needed until other areas heal or need to stay in permanently. Gastrostomy can be done as:
- Endoscopic procedure—a more common and less invasive procedure called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG)
- Open procedure—a large incision is made in the abdomen
Reasons for Procedure
A gastrostomy is needed if food is not able to pass through the mouth and throat. It may be needed to feed a person that has:
- A hard time swallowing
- Appetite problems
- Otherwise unable to eat
It may also be used to drain a build up of acid or fluids. This may be needed with blockages such as those caused by a cancer growth.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Aspiration—accidental sucking into the airways of fluid, food, or any foreign material
- Damage to other organs
- Anesthesia-related problems
- Skin irritation around the tube
- Dislodging or malfunctioning of the tube
Complications are more common in older adults. Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Obesity or diabetes
- Smoking, alcohol use disorder, or drug abuse
- Use of certain prescription medications
- Prior abdominal surgeries
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will review previous tests and your health history. This will include review of:
- X-rays of the abdomen
- Upper GI endoscopy—use of a tube with a lighted camera is used to view the inside of the stomach
Leading up to your procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about your medicine. You may be asked to stop taking some medicine up to one week before the procedure.
- Avoid food or fluids after midnight before surgery.
- Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
A gastrostomy may be done at the same time as another stomach surgery.
An incision will be made through the skin and the belly wall. The last cut will be made in the stomach. A tube will then be placed through the skin and into the stomach. This tube will be stitched in place. The incision will be closed.
Immediately After Procedure
The doctor will make sure that the tube is placed correctly. You will be moved to the recovery room. The care team will watch you for any complications.
How Long Will It Take?
At least 1 hour
How Much Will It Hurt?
The area will be painful after the surgery. Medicine will help with the pain until you heal.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. You will stay 1 to 2 to make sure the tube is secure. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
After the procedure, you can expect the following:
- You may need to get nutrition through an IV for the first couple of days. Clear liquids will be passed through the tube first. You will then be moved on to thicker liquids.
- The care team will show you how to use and care for the feeding tube.
- The care team will also talk about any possible complications.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site around the tube
- Tube becomes dislodged. This is most common in first 2 weeks. If the tube is left out the opening can close.
- Tube becomes clogged or does not work well.
- Leaking of feedings around the site of the tube
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or swelling in the belly
- Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement
- Severe abdominal pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Gastroenterology
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Gastrostomy tube (g-tube). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/g-tube.html. Updated January 2018. Accessed January 10, 2018.
Gastrostomy tube (g-tube) home care. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/g/g-tube-care. Updated July 2016. Accessed January 10, 2018.
Last reviewed February 2019 by Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 2/12/2019