We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is a Feeding Tube?

By Caitlin Kenney
Updated: May 17, 2024

A feeding tube is a medical tube that is inserted into the patient’s digestive tract and delivers liquid nutrients and medicines to the body. This is recommended in patients who are unable to eat normally due to oral cancer, surgery, injury, or another condition that affects the normal ingestion and digestion process. A feeding tube may be placed in several locations along the digestive tract, depending on the needs of the patient. Common locations of tube insertion, or intubation, include the nose, the stomach, and the jejunum of the small intestine.

If it will only be needed for a short period of time, a feeding tube might be inserted through the opening of the nose and run down the throat, into the stomach. This is called a nasogastric tube, or NG tube. Naso- refers to nose, and gastric refers to the stomach. Nasogastric intubation bypasses the mouth and throat and delivers nutrition and medicine directly to the stomach. This procedure uses gravity to move the liquid down the tube to the stomach and is common in patients with severe anorexia nervosa and cancer of the mouth or throat.

A gastric tube, also called a G-tube or button, is inserted surgically through an incision in the belly. These tubes deliver food directly to the stomach and are used in patients who need long-term feeding. Such patients are often severely malnourished, have neurological problems that prevent swallowing, or a physical block to digestion in the mouth or throat.

The most common method of gastric intubation is the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG), a minimally invasive surgery that uses an endoscope to guide the placement of the tube into the stomach. An endoscope is a flexible or rigid tube with a lighted viewing device that transmits images to a fiberscope or screen so that the doctor can see inside the body without conducting open surgery. Insertion of the PEG tube usually takes around twenty minutes and causes little discomfort. The tube will have some mechanism near its end that prevents the tube from falling out of the belly. The tube usually can’t be seen through clothes and can be left in for up to six months.

If the stomach is not fit for a feeding tube, doctors may elect to give the patient a jejunostomy tube (J-tube), instead. The J-tube is surgically inserted through the abdominal wall into the jejunum, the middle portion of the small intestine. The small intestine is the next organ after the stomach in the digestive tract and is used for the breaking down and absorption of food. Like a gastric tube, the surgery can be done endoscopically or as an open surgery.

Depending on the cause of surgery, the patient may be able to return home and administer food and medicine independently. Nurses or doctors will teach the patient how to use and maintain the feeding tube based on the particular case at hand. In general, the tube and the skin around the tube should be cleaned daily with cotton pads or a washcloth and soapy water. For the first four to six weeks, however, the patient should take care not to wet the area too much when bathing. The tube should be flushed out with lukewarm water every six hours or after each feeding, as well as every time a feeding is interrupted.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Aug 26, 2014

A lady at our church has a special needs child who is unable to swallow her food. She has a g-tube, I think. I know the girl attends a developmental program at her school, and the system had to find someone to be an aide who could deal with the feedings and cleaning and maintaining the tube.

It's not an easy thing to do day in and day out, and I know it must be trying on that child's parents, but they don't let it get them down in public, anyway. They're usually upbeat and positive about their daughter's progress.

By Scrbblchick — On Aug 25, 2014

A little boy in our community is being treated for leukemia, and he had to have a naso-gastric tube for a while. He had some kind of infection that made him extremely nauseated when he ate. So, the doctors put him in the hospital and put the nasal tube in so he could be fed.

His mother said it was very depressing for him and he didn't talk much or do much of anything while the tube was in place. He really, really hated it, but it was necessary to help keep him nourished. But explaining that to a seven-year-old isn't always very easy.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.