Enteral feeding describes a method for delivering liquid nutrition directly to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines. This typically involves inserting a feeding tube through the mouth or in some cases, surgically inserting it directly into the stomach or small intestines. When a person is unable to consume food normally, because of injury or disease, enteral feeding becomes a way for them to get the nutrition they need and keep their GI tract functioning. Patients can either use it as a supplement to their regular food consumption or rely on it for all their nutrition.
Having the right supplies and maintaining a clean environment are critical for the health and safety of loved ones. HonestMed offers a wide range of economically priced enteral feeding supplies.
In this article, we offer basic information on enteral feeding. We also list the supplies needed and offer tips for successfully managing your patient or loved one’s daily nutritional requirements.
Enteral Feeding Basics
The need for an enteral feeding program can occur at any age and across a wide range of patients. There are a variety of reasons someone might need to use an enteral feeding tube.
- In elderly patients, a stroke can impair the ability to swallow making a feeding tube necessary.
- Neurological or movement disorders can increase caloric requirements while making it more difficult to eat normally.
- Illnesses such as cancer or damage from an injury can make enteral feeding necessary.
- Infants and young children with an impediment to take in food by the mouth. This results in a diagnosis with failure to thrive and a prescription for enteral feeding.
- Enteral feeding can sometimes be temporary or long-term. Sometimes the goal is to get the patient back on solid foods.
- In enteral feeding, a liquid nutrition-rich formula is delivered via a tube by gravity or with a pump.
Types of Enteral Feeding Tubes
Regardless of the reasons behind the need for enteral feeding, it’s important to understand the supplies needed to ensure that patients get the nutrition they need on a daily basis and in a clean and secure environment. There are a variety of supplies available, including the feeding tube itself. A medical professional can prescribe the right size and type of tube you will need as well as the placement of the tube for successful enteral feeding. The primary types of feeding tubes include:
Tubes that enter through the nose
Nasogastric tubes (NGT) end at the stomach and nasoentric tubes end at the intestines.
Tubes that enter through the mouth
Orogastric tubes (OGT) end at the stomach and oroentric tubes end at the intestines.
Tubes that enter via a stoma in the abdomen
Gastronomy tubes go straight into the stomach and Jejunostomy tubes (J-tubes) go straight into the intestines.
Other Enteral Feeding Supplies
There are a variety of other supplies that you need for enteral feeding. They may provide convenience for both the patient and caregiver. The following are some of the supplies you should have on-hand:
- Liquid meal replacement or supplements: For those who must rely on enteral feeding to survive, it’s critical that they receive sufficient nutrition and calories via their feeding tube. Enteral feeding formulas contain all the vitamins, minerals, protein and calories required for a healthy, thriving life. There are several types of formulas depending on your needs. Always consult your doctor or medical professional to find the right formula for you or your loved one.
- Whole food meal replacement – replaces a nutritious meal and includes all the vitamins and minerals you need
- Peptide formula – for those with a compromised GI tract who have trouble digesting other formulas
- High protein formula – when extra protein is needed
- Low calorie, high protein formula – when high protein without the added calories is needed
- Diabetic formula – for those experiencing hyperglycemia, diabetes, or glucose intolerance
- High fiber formula – when extra fiber is needed to prevent elimination problems
- Enteral feeding pumps: Feeding pumps automatically deliver the prescribed formula and fluid whether feeding is intermittent or continuous. HonestMed offers the Kangaroo Epump, an innovative and compact device that includes a 72-hour history allowing you to accurately track feeding.
- Feeding bags: Feeding bags hold the liquid formula or medicine that is delivered to the patient. They are available for gravity feeding or enteral feeding via a pump. Gravity bags often hang on an IV pole above the patient which allows gravity to deliver the food. Pump bags attach to the enteral feeding pump as a delivery method.
- Feeding pump backpacks: Loved ones that rely on enteral feeding but still want to lead an active life will benefit greatly from a feeding pump backpack. Enteral feeding pump backpacks hold a feeding pump and bag while securing the feeding tube to deliver nutrition whenever needed.
- Gastronomy tube extensions: Patients who use gastronomy tubes for enteral feeding can gain more freedom with a gastronomy tube extension. These extensions securely lock into the gastronomy tube and provide more range of motion while ensuring the feeding tube remains securely connected.
- Irrigation syringes: It’s important to keep tubing clean. Irrigation syringes help you flush out tubing with water to ensure all residue is eliminated between feedings.
- Nasogastric tube fasteners: Nasogastric tubes enter through the nose and are typically kept in place with strips of tape. Using a nasal tube fastener designed specifically for that purpose, provides a much more comfortable experience for the patient and is easier for the caregiver to apply.
Tips for Successful Enteral Feeding
Whether enteral feeding is a temporary condition or one that you or a loved one will depend on long-term, it’s important to follow some basic procedures. This will ensure that loved ones get sufficient nutrition and maintain a healthy body while recovering or continuing an active life.
✔️ Stock up on enteral feeding supplies
Be sure to keep plenty of formula, feeding bags and tubing on hand. Remember to replace bags and tubing frequently, so it’s important to have a good supply ready.
✔️ Verify the correct placement of tubes
Proper tube insertion is critical so it’s a good idea to double check that the tubes begin and end in the right places. For instance, nasogastric tubes enter at the nose and end at the stomach. Nasoentric tubes enter at the nose and end at the intestines. This is also true of tubes that enter at the mouth.
✔️ Clean and change enteral feeding equipment frequently
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before starting. Flush feeding tubes frequently with clean water to ensure that bacteria does not grow. It’s a good idea to flush them before and after feedings and every 4-6 hours if the patient is being fed continually. At least once or twice a week, change bags and tubing completely to ensure you are maintaining a bacteria-free environment. Those using gastronomy tubes should clean the skin around the stoma and watch for signs of irritation or infection.
✔️ Position the patient correctly
The enteral feeding recipient should sit at a 30-45 degree angle during feeding and maintain that position for one hour after feeding.
✔️ Maintain the patient’s desirable weight
Rely on a scale for accurate weight measurement. If your loved one needs to gain weight, you may have to increase the amount of formula they are getting. If they can’t tolerate an increased amount in one session, increase the number of feedings. Always consult your medical professional before making any significant changes.
✔️ Encourage activity
An active individual doesn’t have to become completely sedentary just because he or she relies on enteral feeding. An enteral feeding backpack is the perfect way to deliver nutrition while still leading an active life.
Be Aware of Complications of Enteral Feeding
While it is a life-saving method for many patients, there are some complications you should be aware of. Some of the common problems include:
This occurs when formula is taken into the lungs, which can result in aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration can be the result of a misplaced or dislodged feeding tube, a high residual volume of fluid in the stomach, dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and even poor oral hygiene. To avoid aspiration, check for feeding tube placement often. Take care not to deliver formula at a high capacity as the patient sits at a 30-45 degree position. The patient should remain in this position for at least one hour after feeding. Lastly, don’t forget to be vigilant about oral hygiene.
This syndrome occurs when a person who has experienced prolonged fasting is abruptly administered a high-nutrition formula, leading to potentially harmful electrolyte imbalances. Patients at risk of refeeding syndrome should be cautious. Start with enteral feedings that provide no more than 50% of the daily energy requirements. Then, gradually increase the amount over time. However, it’s important to consult your doctor when beginning an enteral feeding program with someone who is malnourished or frail.
Infection at the enteral tube insertion site
This can occur with a stoma or gastronomy tube. An infection requires attention from a medical professional but clean skin around the stoma area can avoid problems.
Enteral feeding tubes can become dislodged or wrongly placed resulting in problems for the patient, including possible aspiration. Check tubes often to ensure correct placement and functionality. Make sure the patient is in an upright 30-45 degree position during and after feeding.
Nausea and vomiting
If a feeding is too large or being delivered too fast, the patient may experience nausea and vomiting. Ensure proper adjustment of the enteral feeding pump to avoid excessive formula administration during each feeding.
This can occur if you aren’t flushing the tube often or completely enough.
HonestMed Is Here to Help
Whether temporary or long-term, enteral feeding saves lives and HonestMed is committed to helping patients of all ages receive the nutrition they need safely and conveniently. We have great prices on formulas and supplies to make the enteral feeding process as seamless as possible for patients and caregivers alike. Visit the HonestMed website for access to a wide range of supplies and products that support your health needs and help you fulfill your daily tasks with ease. Learn more by speaking to an HonestMed Care Specialist at (833) 933-2323. We’re here to provide you with product knowledge, support, and expertise to ensure that you get the right products for your unique needs and budget.