A percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG), also called a feeding tube, is an effective way to provide food, liquids, and medications directly into the stomach. The word percutaneous means “through the skin.” A flexible feeding tube is placed through the abdominal wall and into the stomach, bypassing the mouth and esophagus. Once in place, it can be used to deliver nutrition, fluids and/or medications directly into the stomach. It is used when disease, or other circumstances such as a difficulty with swallowing, interfere with the body getting the nutrients that it needs. An endoscope is used to help place the PEG tube properly.
During the procedure, the patient is first sedated and comfortable and then a physician places an endoscope (a long, thin, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter) into the mouth. The endoscope is then advanced through the esophagus and into the stomach, where it directs appropriate positioning of the PEG tube in the stomach. The PEG tube rests in the stomach and an adapter protrudes through the skin of the abdomen. Patients can usually go home the either the day of or the day after the procedure.
Possible complications include pain at the PEG site, leakage of stomach contents around the tube site, and dislodging or malfunction of the tube. Other possible complications include infection of the PEG site, aspiration (inhalation of gastric contents into the lungs), bleeding, and perforation (an unwanted hole in the bowel wall). The doctor will describe symptoms to be aware of that could indicate a possible complication. PEG tubes can last for months or years. However, because they can break down or become clogged over extended periods of time, they should be checked regularly and may need to be replaced. Usually, if indicated, removal of a PEG tube can be done in the office without a repeat procedure.