Muscular dystrophy is the name given to a group of inherited muscle diseases that lead to progressive muscle weakness and wasting.

As the disease progresses, most patients lose the ability to walk and may need to use wheelchairs. The loss of muscle strength also makes daily tasks, such as eating, difficult. Some patients find it hard to hold cutlery, and chew and swallow food.

What is tube feeding?

Tube feeding or gastrostomy is a procedure where a tube is placed directly into the stomach for nutritional support. It may be needed when eating becomes more difficult, and patients start to lose weight.

Tube feeding also reduces the risk of aspiration (foods or liquids going into the windpipe), a common cause of lung infections in muscular dystrophy patients.

Feeding tubes still allow patients to eat and drink by mouth, and many use feeding tubes to supplement their nutritional requirements.

With tube feeding, the quality and quantity of food can be easily adapted. Special formula diets contain optimal proportions of fat, protein, and other essential nutrients. If preferred, patients can also be fed with regular food that has been liquefied in a blender. However, the risk of tube clogging is higher with liquefied foods.

Types of feeding tubes

PEG tubes

Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tubes are the most common type of feeding tube. The tube is inserted through the abdominal wall into the stomach during a surgical procedure in which the patient is under mild sedation. The tube is held in place by an internal balloon or an external bumper.

Button tubes

After the insertion of a PEG tube, the patient has the option to switch to a button tube once the tube entrance side has healed.

Button tubes can be easily disconnected when they are not needed. They are flat and can be easily hidden underneath clothing. An external extension set is only attached for feeding.

Some patients prefer button tubes for esthetic reasons. PEG tubes are, however, more comfortable to handle without help because the outer part is not removed between feeds.

Food delivery options

Different methods to administer food include bolus feeding, gravity drip feeding, and continuous feeding.

Bolus feeding

Bolus feeding uses a syringe to administer food. It is usually done four to six times a day, depending on the patient’s nutritional needs. This is the quickest option and takes five to 20 minutes.

Gravity drip feeding

In gravity drip feeding, a bag with liquid food is placed above the patient so that the food drips down by gravity. Feeding by gravity drip usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.

Continuous feeding

This method uses a pump to deliver the food slowly and continuously into the stomach over several hours.

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Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.