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A percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube, also called a PEG tube or a G-tube, is a plastic feeding tube inserted in a person's stomach to enable enteral feeding. It is used when someone is not able to take in food and drink by mouth or is unable to maintain proper nutrition through eating. Placement of a PEG tube is done by a medical team. It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour, and may be done under either local or general anesthesia. The tube is inserted through a small hole in the patient's abdomen with the aid of an endoscope—a long, flexible tube with a video camera in the end that goes into the mouth and through the esophagus to allow the medical team to see the inside of the stomach.
A PEG tube may be used for a very short period of time or indefinitely. Often, children who have PEG tubes as infants outgrow the condition that caused them to need to be tube-fed, or are eventually able to achieve adequate nutrition by eating. Sometimes a PEG tube is placed after a surgery, but can be removed when the patient heals. If the PEG tube is in place for a long period of time, it needs to be replaced at regular intervals, as directed by the medical team.
Care of the PEG tube and the hole where it is placed, called the stoma, takes training, but is not difficult. Patients or caregivers usually learn how to connect enteral feeding equipment to the tube, how to flush the tube with water, and how to clean the stoma site. They are also usually trained to fill and attach a feeding set, operate a feeding pump, and administer bolus feeds with a syringe. They receive additional training specific to the patient's nutritional needs, such as how to prepare particular formulas or solutions.
There are some problems that can occur with PEG tubes. For example, the stoma site may become irritated, especially if there is any leakage from the tube; treatment for that may include using medical gauze or certain ointments or creams. A smooth, shiny skin growth called granulation tissue may develop around the stoma, but can be removed in a doctor's office. The tube may be pulled out accidentally, and will need to be replaced as quickly as possible. All of these issues are common, but can be alarming; a medical team should offer guidance on how they can best be handled by PEG tube users and their caregivers.