Approximately a half million people require a feeding tube for nutrition support annually, for many different reasons.

You may have a condition which prevents you from eating normally; for example, a tumor of your throat, or will be recieving treatements such as radiation that will make swallowing difficult or impossible for a period of time.

A surgically placed feeding tube (laparoscopic gastrostomy) is a tube which allows your doctor to feed you directly into your stomach with special liquid supplements that will improve your nutritional state. You can also use the tube for fluids and medications.

Typically, the tube is temporary and used until the reason for the tube is treated or resolved.

How the surgery is done:

The surgeon will make about several small incisions in your abdomen. A port (nozzle) is inserted into one of the slits, and carbon dioxide gas inflates the abdomen. This process allows the surgeon to see inside of your abdomen more easily. A laparoscope is inserted through another port. The laparoscope looks like a telescope with a light and camera on the end so the surgeon can see inside the abdomen. Surgical instruments are placed in the other small openings and used to place the feeding tube into your stomach. The tube will exit out of your skin, and will be temporarily held in place with four stitches that are attached to half-inch white bolsters on your skin. These stitches will be removed several weeks after surgery. After the tube has been placed, the carbon dioxide is released out of the abdomen through the slits, and then these sites are closed with sutures or staples, or covered with glue-like bandage and steri-strips.

Risks. The primary risks of laparoscopic gastrostomy are:

  • Infection of the skin at one of the small port sites
  • Leaking of intestinal contents at the insertion site of the tube
  • Perforation of the stomach or small bowel
  • Collection of pus inside your abdomen (intraabdominal abscess)
  • Postoperative ileus (the intestines slow down/stop working for several days)
  • Small bowel obstruction (kinking, twisting, or scarring which blocks the bowel)

Your Recovery.

You usually can go home the same day after a laparoscopic gastrostomy. Your doctor and/or nurses will instruct you on the use of your feeding tube. You will be given medication for pain. You should limit your activity to light lifting (no more than 15 lb) for one month.

Call Your Surgeon if you have one or more of the following:

  • Severe pain
  • High fever
  • Odor or increased drainage from your incision
  • No bowel movements for three days
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or crampy abdominal pain