Enteral feeding is an everyday reality for many patients who are unable to eat a regular diet by mouth.
Tube feeding allows these individuals to receive the nutrients that they need and avoid malnourishment.
Patients may require the assistance of enteral nutrition if they are too sick to eat, which can occur during certain treatments such as chemotherapy, they are physically unable to eat – for example, if a stroke has impaired their ability to swallow – or if their body requires a higher calorie intake than they can keep up with. Enteral feeding has saved many patients from severe dietary issues and has helped them to maintain nourishment during the treatment of other conditions. But there are many different ways in which patients can be enterally fed, and the most suitable method is often assessed according to each individual’s needs. In this article, we take a closer look at a few of the most common methods of enteral feeding, and the accessories needed to carry out this procedure safely.
What is Enteral Feeding?
Enteral feeding is often referred to as tube feeding because liquid food is delivered into the patient’s body via the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The enteral feeding tube enters the body through either the nose, mouth or insertion directly into the stomach or intestine through the skin of the abdomen. There are many factors that dictate the method of enteral feeding deemed suitable for a patient. These include:
- How long the patient requires the assistance of enteral nutrition
- The patient’s digestive capabilities
- The age of the patient (NICU and paediatrics enteral feeding tubes are also available)
- The patient’s specific nutritional needs
- The restrictions involved with the treatment the patient is currently undergoing
- The size of tubing that is required
What types of tubes are necessary for enteral feeding?
Different methods of enteral feeding will necessitate different tubes. Though there are numerous types, six main types of enteral feeding tubes are typically used.
Enteral nutrition delivered to the stomach
Nasogastric tubes (NGT): These tubes start at the nose and end in the stomach. The tube is inserted through the nostril, down the esophagus and into the stomach.
Orogastric tubes (OGT): The OGT starts at the mouth and ends in the stomach. Its placement is similar to an NGT.
Gastrostomy tubes: A small incision is made in the skin of the abdomen and the tube is fed directly into the stomach.
Enteral nutrition delivered to the intestines
Nasoenteric tubes: These tubes start in the nose and end in the intestine. There are several placements of the tubes, including nasoduodenal, which passes through the stomach and ends in the first portion of the small intestine, and nasojejunal, which bypasses the stomach and ends in the second portion of the small intestine.
Oroenteric tubes: These tubes start in the mouth and end in the intestine.
Jejunostomy tubes: A small incision is made in the skin of the abdomen and the tube is fed directly into the intestine.
How is Enteral nutrition administered?
Enteral solutions such as milk, medication and bolus feed (like a liquid meal) can all be administered to the patient via inserting a syringe containing the substance into the enteral tubes. The tubes will then carry the solution into the patient’s body. The type of syringe needed will depend upon the dosage that the patient requires, and the length of time they are expected to undergo enteral feeding. Syringes come in a variety of sizes and can be purchased for single use (typically suitable for hospitals and medical centres) or multi-use (for patients who are undergoing enteral feeding at home). It is, however, important to ensure that the tips of the syringes are compatible with the connection ports of the patient’s enteral feeding tubes. If not, adapters may need to be purchased.
The Enteral ENFit range of syringes by Midmed
Midmed stocks a wide range of single and multi-use enteral ENFit syringes. ENFit is a global movement dedicated to making all enteral feeding devices compatible only to the enteral feeding process. This approach to enteral nutrition is much more convenient for carers and much safer for patients, as enteral feeding tubes, syringes and accessories cannot mistakenly fit into other medical systems (such as IV) causing harmful cross-contamination.
The Midmed enteral ENFit range of syringes are robust and user-friendly. Best of all, they connect effortlessly with any feeding tubes incorporating ENFit male connectors/ports. If your enteral feeding tubes do not feature male ENFit ports, Midmed also supplies a range of transitional adaptors to economically assist your medical facility in moving towards a fully ENFit compatible range of enteral feeding devices. If you wish to find out more about how the ENFit system works, please view our educational video below: