Reducing Gastrostomy Tube Placement in Children with Aspiration & COVID-19 Tracking

From The COVID Tracking Project: Effective Reproduction Number

These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.  All 50 states listed below (but hard to see) -these numbers adjust for testing frequency:

The site has each state -here are Georgia and Florida:

A recent study (McSweeney M, Meleedy-Rey P, Kerr J, Yuen JC, Fourneir G, Norris K, Larson K, Rosen R. A quality improvement initiative to reduce gastrostomy tube placement in aspirating patients. Pediatrics. 2020, 145: e20190325; DOI: was highlighted by John Pohl in Practical Gastroenterology:

Full text summary: Reducing Gastrostomy Placement in Children with Aspiration

An excerpt:

Children equal to or less than 2 years of age with aspiration demonstrated on VFSS were included in the study…If a VFSS was abnormal and the child was less than 52 weeks gestational age, then the child either was admitted to the hospital for a trial of nasogastric (NG) breastmilk or oral thickened formula with NG breast milk. The patient then continued to work with SLP… If a repeat VFSS showed improvement in the swallowing mechanism, then work with SLP and trialing with thickened feeds continued until the aspiration had resolved as demonstrated by VFSS. However, if a repeat VFSS still showed aspiration, a child was considered a candidate for gastrostomy placement…

In total, 6125 patients at 2 years of age or less underwent a VFSS during the 4-year study period, and 1668 of these patients had aspiration or penetration… 94 of the patients with aspiration or aspiration and penetration on their first VFSS (12.2%) and 31 of the patients with penetration only on their first VFSS (3.4%) eventually required gastrostomy placement…

Gastrostomy placement in this patient population fell from 10.9% at the beginning of the study to 5.2% at the end…

The number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the patient group without gastrostomies did not increase during the study with this same patient group having significantly less emergency room visits and hospitalizations compared to those children who had undergone gastrostomy placement

My take: This study shows that conservative therapy allows most children (<2 yrs) to avoid gastrostomy tube placement

Related blog posts:


Does Gastrostomy Tube Placement Lower Rates of Hospitalization?

Yes. But maybe for the reasons one might expect.

In this retrospective study from Australia (P Jacoby et al J Pediatr 2020; 217: 131-8.), the authors analyzed two cohorts with total of 673 children with disabilities who had undergone gastrostomy tube (GT) placement.

Key findings:

  • All-cause hospitalizations declined at 5 years after procedure with combined (both cohorts) incidence rate ratio of 0.63
  • Admissions for lower respiratory tract infections did not change appreciably
  • Admissions for epilepsy were generally decreased (see Table V) –this drop is mainly what accounts for the lower hospitalization rates.
  • Fundoplication (which occurred in ~30% with GT insertion) “seemed to decrease the relative incidence of acute LRTI admissions in the combined cohort”
  • The specific numbers for hospitalizations are listed in Table V.

In their discussion, the authors noted that in the year prior to GT placement, there had been an elevated number of hospitalizations.  With regard to fundoplication, the authors note uncertain benefit for respiratory complications.  In previous studies of neonates and children with neurologic impairment and GT placement, there was similar gastrointestinal and respiratory related admissions with or without fundoplication.

My take: GT placement facilitates care for children with disabilities including provision of medication and nutrition.  This study confirms subsequent improvement in hospitalization rates but does not show a clear benefit with regard to respiratory infections.

Related blog posts:

Pediatric Nutritionist: Blenderized & Pureed Gtube Diets

A recent Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Nutrition Support Colloquium provided a terrific update on the use of blenderized and pureed diets via gastrostomy tube.

Here’s the link to the talk (including slides) and a summary on the Pediatric Nutritionist blog site: The Blenderized and Pureed by Gtube Diets

I’ve found these diets to be particularly useful in children with retching.  In addition, these diets can lower costs, reduce other symptoms like constipation, and appeal to parents who desire more typical foods in their child’s diet.

Related blog postNutrition University -Part 1 | gutsandgrowth

Gibbs Gardens

Gibbs Gardens


Feeding Aversions -A Personal Journey

A terrific article in NY Times Magazine explains the difficulties of feeding aversions and describes some of the approaches, including feeding tubes and behavior feeding programs.

Link: When Your Baby Won’t Eat

For families struggling with feeding problems and for feeding programs, this article is well worth the read.

By the Chattahoochee

By the Chattahoochee

Helpful Position Paper: Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy in Children

A recent European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrtition (ESPGHAN) position paper provides some useful advice regarding the management of percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) in children and adolescents (JPGN 2015; 60: 131-41).

Table 1 provides a succinct description of the potential benefits of PEG compared with nasogastric tube including less dislodgement, reduces risk of aspiration, better appearance, safer/more reliable enteral access, optimizes development of oral skills, less blockage/clogging, cost-effective, less interference with daily activities, avoids nasal irritation/trauma, reduced anxiety at mealtimes, and shorter meal times.

Table 2 provides a good summary of clinical indications including optimizing nutritional status, maintaining hydration, supporting unpalatable diet, decompressing stomach, improving medication adherence, ensuring safe feedings/prevent aspiration, and improving quality of life.

The position paper reviews relative and absolute contraindications (uncorrectable coagulopathy, interposition of enlarged organs, frank peritonitis); I did not see any mention of high dose steroids as a relative contraindication.  Given high dose steroids’ impact on healing, PEG needs to be avoided if possible in this setting (in my opinion).

The authors provide extensive information on potential complications (table 6 and table 7).

Other key points:

  • “In the United Kingdom, it is accepted by the National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness that expectation of continuous NGT use for a minimum of 4 weeks ( –this reference provided by authors focuses on NGT in adults), or even 2 to 3 weeks, should prompt consideration of PEG insertion.”
  • “The use of a routine preoperative upper GI contrast study is NOT advised to rule out malrotation.”
  • “Asymptomatic children do not require investigation for GERD before PEG insertion.” However, the authors note that in the presence of significant symptomatic reflux, or reflux in the presence of an unsafe swallow/progressive neurologic disease, or chronic respiratory disease, this should prompt discussion around the need for a surgical antireflux procedure.
  • The authors suggest that PEG change to a button can occur “after a period of 2 months or more.” Our institution generally does not change prior to 3 months.
  • The authors state that formula (rather than clears) can be started within 4 to 6 hours of PEG insertion.
  • One aspect of their recommendations that I disagreed with was their advice on preventing a ‘buried bumper.’  “To prevent a ‘buried bumper,’ the PEG should be carefully pushed into the stomach by 1 to 2 cm and then rotated once a week from day 7 postinsertion.”
  • Perhaps this advice is offered as the guideline also suggests that patients do not need much follow-up: “The child will require follow-up, typically provided by nurse specialists 3 months after placement of the gastrostomy.  Thereafter, annual review of the device is usually adequate…between routine appointments caregivers should have access to appropriately trained professionals.”  In my view, if the tube is appropriately sized (checked early on) and patients are followed (for excessive weight gain), then pushing in the tube should be unnecessary.

Take-home message: Overall, this is a useful reference/summary for PEG tube management, though some recommendations are based on practice patterns rather than high-quality data.

Are there others who would like to relay their experience and advice?

Related blog posts:

Rett Reference

JPGN 2013; 57: 451-60.  “Assessment and Management of Nutrition and Growth in Rett Syndrome”

  • This references expert recommendations from an international multidisciplinary panel.  “The level of evidence for the statements was low.”
  • “A body mass index of approximately the 25% can be considered a reasonable target in clinical practice.  Gastrostomy is indicated for extremely poor growth, if there is risk of aspiratrion and if feeding times are prolonged.”
  • There was no consensus with regard to fundoplication.  It should be used with “caution in those with significant air swallowing.”

Related previous post:

GI & Nutrition Problems in Rett Syndrome | gutsandgrowth

Best gastrostomy tube

A recent report touts the feasibility of a one-step percutaneous gastrojejunostomy (GJ) as the latest advance in enteral access (JPGN 2012; 54: 820-21).  This reference describes a new variation in technical placement: gastropexy using t-fasteners to secure gastrostomy tube site and then advancing neonatal scope via gastrostomy site to advance guidewire for  GJ placement.  This technique was used in three infants.

Most centers have developed their own protocols for enteral access and it is likely that the familiar approach to that center will be safest for their patient population.  Recently, the subject of gastrostomy tube placement was extensively reviewed in our institution (see below) due to variation in care at two children’s hospitals.  In one hospital, the surgical group primarily placed laparascopic button gastrostomies and argued that better visualization led to lower complications like colonic interposition.  Furthermore, this approach was considered similar in cost effectiveness as the group would place a primary Mic-Key® ( thereby eliminating the need for anesthesia for a button placement.

The alternative approach utilized a Corflo® gastrostomy tube (  The advantages of this approach were 1) less anesthetic time/a smaller operation, and 2) lower likelihood of tube dislodgment.  This group approach argued that dislodgment was the greatest risk and that there was no urgency for a button tube.

Despite a joint meeting of these groups weighing the pros and cons, there was not a single best gastrostomy tube.

My experience is that tube dislodgment is quite common with button tubes.  In addition, primary button tubes can be difficult to size when the patient is under anesthesia.  As such, it is my practice to discourage primary gastrostomy button placement.  In addition, most patients who need gastrostomy tubes can wait until they are good surgical candidates both in terms of cardiorespiratory status and size.


Gtube Products:
• AMT clamp –helps eliminate tubing pullouts

• Gtube washable pads  (specific web address:

Additional references:

  • -J Pediatr 2011; 159: 602. Preemptive gtube assoc with improved survival post Norwood. High number needed fundoplication.
  • -JPGN 2011; 53: 293. 95% success with PEG in infants 2.1-5.6kg
  • -JPEN 2011; 35: 50-55. Predictive factors of mortality after PEG.
  • -JPGN 2009; 49: 237. Gtube improves height & weight in Rett syndrome.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 1372. PEG placement does NOT prolong life in dementia patients.
  • -Arch Dis Child 2006; 91: 478-82. PEG reduced hospitalizations for respiratory dz in 57 severely impaired children
  • -J Pediatr 2006; 149: 837. inreased risk of PEG in SMA type 1 -42% w aspiration; 17% death (2/12)
  • -Pediatrics 2004; 114: 458-61. Moratlity rate of 0.4% -one death related to sepsis/peritonitis & 5% complication rate.
  • -Teitelbaum JE, Gorcey SA, Fox VL. Combined endoscopic cautery and clip closure of chronic gastrocutaneous fistulas. Gastrointest Endosc. 2005;62(3):432-435
  • -JPGN 2006; 43: 624. Satisfaction with PEGs: 94% of parents viewed PEG as positive influence on child’s situation & 98% would have chosen PEG insertion again (n=121).
  • -Sullivan PB, Dev Med Child Neurol 2005; 47: 77-83. 57 CP pts -almost all had improved health/nutrition p gtube
  • -Gastroenterology 2001; 121: 970-1001 & JPEN 2004; 28: S16. Provision of nutrition does not, for the most part, favorably alter clinical outcome.
  • -Lancet 2005; 365: 755-763. Pts c stroke/PEG did not do better than those c stroke/NGT.
  • -Sullivan PB, Dev Med Child Neurol 2004; 46: 796-800. gtube improves QOL.

Gastrostomy Tube Review with annotated references: Laparoscopic gtube versus conventional PEG placement

 Zamakhshary et al.  JPS 2005; 40: 859-62.   i.  Retrospective review, n=119 (only 26 with laparoscopy =21%). (2002-2003)  ii.  States same operative time of ~53 min by combining 2nd procedure w PEG (in 77% w PEG).  It takes these authors a long time to perform PEG and gtube change procedures.  Also, it is not noted how many of these 2nd procedures were coordinated with other needed anesthesias.  (Many times a PEG is replaced at the time of another procedure.)   iii.   3 PEG with transcolonic tube, 2 failed PEG –one with peritonitis, 4 with tract disruption when PEG pulled.  Similar rate of local problems (eg granulation tissue).  ARTICLE does not detail when PEG tubes are pulled –VERY high rate of tract disruptions.   iv. Article missing key details regarding size of PEGs & gtube buttons which may impact complications.  v. Cited advantages according to authors:

  1. “eliminates” risk of hollow viscus injury (JH: this is NOT  accurate)
  2. Useful for small infants (<2kg) (JH: usually gtube NOT needed in <2kg)
  3. Enables “ideal” location (JH: this is NOT  accurate)
  4. Primary button ‘advantage’ (JH: DOES NOT cite potential pitfalls like button too tight, possibility of balloon breakdown, possibly higher rate of dislodgment)

 Vervloessem et al. JPS 2009; 18: 93-97.     i. Retrospective review: 1992-2008.  N=467.  ONLY 19 Lap PEG –thus limited ability to provide comparison.  ii. Cites 59 “major complications” due to PEG –Table 2, including “13” new cases of GERD after PEG (or worsened GERD).  Of the major complications, important complications included 1 sepsis death, 7 peritonitis, 5 gastrocolic fistulas, 4 major granulation tissue, and 11 buried bumpers.  iii.  States that VPS is risk factor for infection but does not state whether any Lap gtubes were done in these patients.  iv. Complication rate decreased over the years—p=0.003; thus PEG procedure became safer with time and experience.   Could not demonstrate a decrease in complications with lap gtube versus PEG.  Authors recommend lap PEG in specific situations such as previous abdominal surgery or if not a good puncture site.

 Segal et al. JPGN 2001; 33: 495-500.    i. Retrospective study, n=110 (1990-97). N=110 –ALL PEG (no LAP). Thus, limited utility in comparing two methods. ii. “44%” developed late complications with PEG.  Most common: 24 extruded tubes/buried tubes (would NOT be better with lap button); other important: cologastric fistula n=2, peritonitis.  Table 1 indicates that 75% of dislodgment were due to buttons not PEG.  12 of the complications were granulation tissue and proliferative gastric mucosa.  Buried tubes occurred 14 & 19 months after placement with button tube!!   iii.  Thus this article adds little to the discussion of PEG vs lap gtube.

Akay et al. JPS 2010; 45: 1147-52  i.  Retrospective review (2004-2008) n=238 (134 PEG, 104 LAP)  ii. PEG with higher complications;  authors were changing PEG after 6-8 weeks. iii.  6 patients had early PEG dislodgment –this is higher than expected.  iv. 1 patient with gastrocolic-cutaneous fistula with both PEG & with LAP.  v. Table 4 lists complications: similar stomal issues, 2 patients with leak after PEG exchange (too early! –see page 1152) vi. Cited advantages: “eliminating” risk of hollow viscus injury, allows for sutures, small infants (<2kg) & possible primary buttons.**These authors did not place primary buttons –this makes it difficult to draw any conclusions about PEG vs primary LAP button.  Many feel PEG tube is a better tube and less prone to dislodgment than button and guarantees appropriate size.

Lantz et al. Int J Pediatr 2010; ID# 507616, 1-4.   i. Literature review, included 54 studies that qualified (1995-2009).  N=4331 (1027 LAP, 3304 PEG).  Very few details given in this review.  ii.Fistulas in 1.27% of PEG vs 0% for LAP.  iii.  Lists significant limitations: different studies, not blinded, nonpublication bias.  iv.  “This study highlights the need …for trials, comparing PEG to” LAP. v.  Does not include the limitation that LAP technique developed later and with more experience less complications.  Except for gastrocolic-cutaneous fistulas –no specific information is given about complications.

Avitsland et al.  JPGN 2006; 43: 624-28.  i. Restrospective review. N=121 –all PEGs  ii.     PEG “safe technique…major complications rare.”  “Most children experience minor stoma-related complications.”  iii. 29 died due to other factors.  Of 85 with f/u, 21 able to remove gastrostomy.  iv. No early mortality (<30 days).  1 of 85 had tube dislodgment.  3 had tube migration into esophagus (in cases where tube was not endoscopically removed).  v.     Frequent tube site problems ~75% -most easily treated. vi. Parents with high satisfaction: 83/85 (98%) would choose PEG again, 80/85 (94%) stated PEG improved child’s situation

Gauderer M. JPS 2001; 36: 217-19.   i.  Focused literature search and personal 20 year experience. ii. >216,000 PEGs performed annually in U.S. according to article (~5000 children).  PEG procedure developed 1st for children. iii.  Suggested approach to PEG with or w/o fundoplication: “Because PEG is such a simple procedure, a well-accepted approach is to place gastrostomy initially in children who can tolerate nasogastric tube feedings and add an antireflux procedure later, if needed.

Srinivasan et al. JPGN 2009; 49: 584-88.   i.Prospectively collected data from observational study, n=601 (384 PEG insertions, 165 button conversions).  ALL pediatric. ii.  Complications:  PEG site erythema 15%, buried bumper migration (1 patient), 3 PEG dislodgments, one patient had laparotomy due to severe pain (no findings identified).   No procedure-related mortality.   iii.  49 of 384 removed –no longer needed.  iv. “The role of PEG is well established…our experience..PEG has been generally safe, with low procedure-related morbidity in children.

Nutr Clin Pract 2005; 20 (6): 607-12.  Bankhead RR et al. i. Comparison of 91 patients.  23 PEG, 39 LAP, 29 open.  ii.   PEG had lowest complication rate

Surg Endosc 2006; 20: (8): 1248-51.  Ljungdahl M.                                         i.     Prospective, randomized study. N=70.  ii.  PEG with lower complication rate than surgical (open) gastrostomy –lower mortality & morbidity in adult patients.

UK Review Online:   2009  i. Review of alternatives to PEG for gastrostomy insertion. There are alternative methods of gastrostomy tube insertion to PEG. They are: a) Laparoscopic insertion b) Open surgical technique c)Percutaneous radiologically guided gastrostomy (PRG) insertion. ii.  “There are reports over the years since introduction of PEG in the 1980s with often inconclusive results.21▪    A small study from Ireland and one from London favour PRG in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as it avoids the need for sedation or endoscopy.22,23▪  One meta-analysis suggested a higher success rate with PRG than with PEG, and less morbidity than either PEG or surgery.24 However a more recent comparison of a relatively small number of endoscopic, surgical and laparoscopic placement favoured PEG25 and another favoured PEG over PRG.26▪     A literature review suggested PEG as the procedure of choice for placement of gastrostomy tubes.27▪    A recent prospective randomized trial favoured PEG over surgical gastrostomy insertion.28▪     There is some evidence that polyurethane PEGs are less troublesome than silicone PEGs (less tube deterioration, less blockage).29▪    PEG is preferred in trauma patients.30▪                Antibiotic prophylaxis for PEG insertion appears to reduce the incidence of wound infection.19,20▪      Laparoscopic insertion was considered preferable to PEG by one study in children with PEG insertion having higher complication rate in children and often requiring repeat anaesthetics.31   An earlier study in children showed similar results for surgical, PRG and PEG insertion but did not look at the laparoscopic technique.32    A recent study from Norway found PEG insertion safe and very well tolerated by children and parents but made no comparison with other techniques.

Conclusions of review: PEG likely increases risk of gastrocolic fistulas (1-2%) but this has been reported with LAP as well.  The incidence is low.  No well-designed  studies have demonstrated superiority of LAP over PEG in terms of safety.  Potential drawbacks of LAP are likely underreported.  There have been cases of severe peritonitis at local hospitals following lap with primary gtube balloon misplacement.  Many feel PEG tube is a better tube and less prone to dislodgment than button (dislodgment is most frequent serious adverse event) and can be easily adjusted to  appropriate size.  To minimize complications, tube should not  be changed early.