5 Signs Your Child Needs a Feeding Tube

The Nutrition4Kids website (developed by my partner Stan Cohen) has a lot of useful information for families. Here is a link to a recent addition: 5 Signs Your Child Needs a Feeding Tube

An excerpt:

Reasons for needing a feeding tube…

  • Medical necessity, where the child can’t meet their calorie needs due to a medical condition (like, say, a heart defect, neurologic and neuromuscular disorders, or a digestive disorder.)
  • Failure to thrive, often because of food aversions…
  • Trouble learning to suck, swallow, and breathe

Here are some of the most common signs your child may benefit from a feeding tube.

  • Sign #1: Your Physician Brings It Up 
  • Sign #2: You’ve Noticed Development Delays 
  • Sign #3: They’re Malnourished or Chronically Dehydrated
  • Sign #4: You’ve Tried Other Options Without Success
  • Sign #5: You’re Feeling Helpless as the Caregiver

If your child does end up needing enteral nutrition, understand that it doesn’t always mean it’s a forever situation.

Related blog posts:


www.feedingtubeawareness.com  This site contains a terrific PDF download which explains enteral tubes in an easy to understand style along with good graphics. “What You Need to Know Now, A Parent’s Introduction to Tube Feeding is the guidebook that every parent wished they had when they were first introduced to feeding tubes.”

PEG Placement in Cystic Fibrosis

A small retrospective study (RT Khalaf et al.NCP 2018; LINK: doi.org/10.1002/ncp.10219) showed that PEG placement was associated with a trend (not statistically significant) towards improved lung function in children with cystic fibrosis (CF). Reference from Kipp Ellsworth twitter feed.  There were 20 patients who had PEG placed compared to 40 patients who did not.


  • BMI percentile increased per month for those with PEG (0.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) = −0.05–1.08, P = .08), but decreased for those without PEG (−0.03, 95% CI = −0.33–0.28, P = .86); however, the difference (0.54; 95% CI = −0.10–1.18, P = .10) was not statistically significant.
  • FEV1 change with time showed a decrease for patients with PEG (−0.04; 95% CI = −0.30–0.22, P = .74) and those without PEG (−.22; 95% CI = −0.45–0.01, P = .06). Although the FEVdecrease for those without PEG was higher than those with PEG, the difference between the groups was not statistically significant (0.18; 95% CI = −0.17–0.52, P = .32)

My take: While the differences are not statistically-significant, this study indicates that PEG placement is NOT detrimental to lung function in CF and may be beneficial.

Related blog posts:

Near Banff

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 (www.nice.org.uk/CG032 –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:

Why I’m Not a Fan of the “1-Step” PEG

A recent article describes a single-center retrospective review of the 1-Step Low-Profile percutaneous gastrostomy (PEG) tube (“EndoVive” from Boston Scientific) (JPGN 2014; 58: 616-20).  The potential rationale for the 1-Step PEG tubes:

  • 1-time procedure for a low-profile device

My personal experience with these devices is quite limited.  However, I did have one patient who resumed walking after placement of a 1-step dome device gastrostomy tube. He had stopped walking several months before, mainly due to some mild neurological problems.  After receiving this PEG tube, he said he was in so much pain when he was sitting down that he started walking again.  He was able to continue walking after switching to a different gastrostomy tube.  This particular ‘miracle’ explains one of the pitfalls of this device.  This patient had an embedded bolster.

In the current series, the authors’ conclusion was that the 1-step PEG “has complication rates and outcomes comparable with standard PEGs.”  However, their reported results suggest a higher rate of complications: embedded bolster occurred in 5%, cellulitis in 23% (6.6% needing IV antibiotics), and perforation occurred in 0.8%.

Given the relatively small number of patients (n=121 who met inclusion) and retrospective nature of the study, whether these complication rates are significantly higher is a matter of debate.  It should be noted that there may have been some selection bias given that there were only 31 patients less than one year in the study.

With regard to embedded PEG tubes, the authors note that this complication rate typically is 2.3% with a traditional PEG.  The authors minimize the discrepancy of their higher rate, noting the “importance of choosing the right size of the 1-step PEG.”  For those who perform this procedure, this admonition sounds easy but in practice can be problematic.  In addition, the main advantage of this procedure is the “1-step” procedure.  Yet  in Figure 2, the authors note that 67 (more than 50%) underwent a change to a balloon device.

Bottomline: The authors state that the 1-step PEG, “in our opinion, is a preferable PEG technique for children who need long-term enteral feeds.”  My opinion: I’m not a fan and think the 1-step, for initial placement, is less safe overall.

Related blog entries:

Pre-PEG UGIs -Low Yield If No Major Malformations or Cystic Fibrosis

From JPGN online and NASPGHAN twitter feed, bit.ly/19q99Y8 :

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition:
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000282

Abstract: “We studied the utility of a preoperative upper gastrointestinal series in children with and without major congenital anomalies undergoing gastrostomy tube (G-tube) placement. Of 1163 children evaluated, 743 had major anomalies and a total of 39 episodes of malrotation were found. All of the children with malrotation either had major congenital anomalies or cystic fibrosis. Our study suggests that an upper gastrointestinal series may be unnecessary prior to G-tube placement in children without other congenital anomalies or cystic fibrosis.”

Comment: while I agree with the conclusions of the abstract, it is worth noting that upper gastrointestinal series will pick up other abnormalities as well, including duodenal stenosis (which I have seen picked up on two separate occasions).

Long-term Outcomes with Pediatric PEG Placement

As noted about a week ago in this blog, gastrostomy tube (gtube) placement in children is much different from gtube placement in adults.

A retrospective study from Boston Children’s followed 138 patients who had PEG tube placed between 1999-2000 (JPGN 2013; 57: 663-67).  The median followup was approximately 5 years.


  • Median time to elective tube removal was 10.2 years.
  • ~50% of patients continued with gastrostomy tube 10 years after placement.
  • 11% (n=15) had at least 1 major complication related to gastrostomy placement.  Major complication was defined as any unplanned adverse events requiring hospitalization, surgery (eg. fundoplication) or interventional radiology (eg. gastrojejunal tube placement). Most major complications occurred during the first 6-12 months following placement with the most common being cellulitis (n=10).
  • 18% of the cohort died during the 10-year study period because of non-gastrostomy-related issues.  No deaths were attributed to gastrostomy tube placement.

Bottomline: The need for gastrostomy tube placement is associated with frequent comorbidities.  A significant number of patients undergoing gastrostomy tube placement experience major complications.

Also noted:

JPGN 2013; 57: 659-62. This prospective study of 69 patients showed that early reintroduction of feedings after gastrostomy placement, 4 hours postoperatively, was safe and compared favorably to those fed 12 hours postoperatively.  Early feedings were associated with hospital duration, on average, of 6.7 hours. At this center, prophylactic antibiotics were not administered without apparent increase in infections.

JPGN 2013; 57: 668-72. This retrospective study of 77 children with feeding disorders showed that inpatient behavioral interventions are effective in transitioning children from gastrostomy tube feeding to oral feeding.

Related blog entries:

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® (http://www.mic-key.com/home.aspx) thereby eliminating the need for anesthesia for a button placement.

The alternative approach utilized a Corflo® gastrostomy tube (http://www.corpakmedsystems.com/product_main/enteral_main.html#FeedingTubes).  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
www.oley.org  (specific web address: http://oley.org/lifeline/TubetalkJF11.html)

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: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/PEG-Feeding-Tubes-Indications-and-Management.htm   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.