If you recently had a PEG tube placed, or may need one in the near future, you're probably overwhelmed and wondering what may happen with it. Yes, you may have some complications with your PEG tube. However, communication with your health care team is essential to prevent and deal with any complications.
Aspiration, or inhaling food or saliva into the lungs, is the most serious complication of PEG tube feeding. Aspiration may be mild and go unnoticed, or may be severe and cause pneumonia or respiratory failure. To prevent aspiration, sit upright during feeding and for 1 hour after feeding is stopped. If it is difficult to sit, keep the head of the bed elevated at least 30 degrees.
Diarrhea is the most common PEG tube feeding complication, but usually is not caused by the formula itself. Many medications cause loose stools, such as antibiotics and magnesium supplements. Also, many liquid medications are in a sorbitol solution, which is a sugar alcohol and can cause diarrhea. Pay attention to what medications you are on and ask your doctor if any could cause diarrhea.
Tube feeding formula is food, and can carry food borne illness if not stored properly. If you are receiving feeding continuously, the formula bag must be changed or cleaned every 4 hours. Wash your hands before each feeding. Open formulas should be refrigerated.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting may occur if feeding is given too quickly or if your stomach empties too slowly. If you have nausea or vomiting, ask your doctor if you can decrease the rate of administration. There are medications that your doctor may prescribe for nausea as well.
Dehydration is more common in patients receiving concentrated formulas (2 calories per ml compared to 1 calorie per ml), due to the smaller amount of free water. It is important follow the recommendations given by your doctor to give yourself enough water. Also, diarrhea or vomiting may increase your water needs. If you have diarrhea or are vomiting for more than one day, inform your doctor.
The PEG tube may become blocked if it is not frequently flushed with water, or if medications are not dissolved in water. If your tube becomes clogged, try to gently flush it with warm (not hot) water. The water may need to sit in the tube for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not push hard when trying to unclog the tube, it may break. If this does not work, your doctor may need to change the tube.
Like any wound, your PEG site may become infected. To prevent this, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. Clean the area daily with mild soap and water. If the bolster is too tight to your skin it is difficult to keep this area clean and dry. In this case, the bolster needs to be adjusted by your doctor.
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