Alternative Means of Feeding

If a patient's swallow is so severely impaired that adequate nutrition cannot be received by mouth, an alternative means of feeding probably will be necessary.

The three main types of alternative feeding techniques follow.

Nasogastric Tube: When a patient cannot take food by mouth, a temporary means of feeding is the nasogastric (NG) tube. This tube is passed through the nose and throat, down the esophagus and into the stomach. The patient receives a high nutrition liquid through this tube several times a day. 

Some patients regain their ability to swallow even while the tube is in place, while others may require permanent placement of an alternative feeding method.

IVs and Hyperalimentation: 

Nutrition also can be sustained by infusing nutrients directly into the blood. Intravenous (IV) feeding involves placing a needle into a vein, usually on the arm. In hyperalimentation, nutrients are fed directly into the vena cave, a main vein near the neck.

Gastrostomy: A more permanent means of feeding is a gastrostomy tube. In a surgical procedure, a feeding tube is placed through the abdominal wall and directly into the stomach. This tube can be removed and the incision healed over if the patient regains the ability to take food by mouth

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