Nursing Homes and Feeding Tubes

Feeding tubes in Ohio nursing homesMany residents of Ohio nursing homes need feeding tubes—on a temporary or permanent basis, and for either a partial supplement, or as their only source of nutrition. Unfortunately, there are times that feeding tubes are not properly inserted by a nursing home staff, resulting in injury and even death. At least two patients in California died recently because of improper use of a feeding tube.

One primary reason for a feeding tube is cancer, especially of the head, neck, stomach, and esophagus.  Other conditions like Crohn’s Disease, bowel removal, a stroke, or ALS may also mean that the patient must be fed through a tube. In addition, a resident may need a feeding tube if suffering from severe nutritional problems or dehydration, or if diagnosed with aspirational pneumonia.

Use of a feeding tube, and the nutritional formula that is fed to the patient, must come from a doctor. There are several types of feeding tubes:

G-Tube is surgically placed into the abdominal wall, below the rib cage and goes directly into the stomach.  It is a convenient delivery route for long-term feeding and can be easily replaced.

PEG (percutaneous esophago-gastronomy) is placed directly into the stomach.

J-Tube (Jejunostomy Tube) is surgically placed into the upper section of the small intestine (jejunum).  This tube bypasses the stomach and feeds directly into the intestinal tract.

NG-Tube (Nasogastric Tube) placed in a nostril, down the pharynx, through the esophagus, and into the stomach.  It is usually used for short-term feeding.  The placement of the tube must be checked before each feeding.

There are also several methods for formula delivery:

The bolus/syringe method uses a syringe attached to the feeding tube.  The formula is poured into the syringe and flows into the tube.

The gravity drip method uses a gravity feeding bag.  The flow rate (determined by a doctor) can be controlled, and the bags must be changed every 24 hours to prevent bacteria growth.

The pump feeding method is controlled by a battery or electrical operated device set to control the rate of infusion.

The food that is passed through the tube can either be a commercial product or a personally-designed formula. A doctor will decide the best plan for feeding based on the resident’s gastrointestinal function, physical capability, and degree of cooperation.  The feeding formula can range from blended food products to commercial formulas.

A number of things can go wrong with the use of feeding tubes, so resident staff—doctors, nurses, and everyone else—has to be very careful and very mindful when working with a patient who is using one. The feeding tube can become loose, and aspiration can still occur with a feeding tube in place.  The patient’s head must always be above the level of the tube. Bacteria can also grow in the tube. If the tube system has an ice pack to keep the food fresh, the ice must be changed regularly.

If the tube is surgically placed, another set of precautions must be enforced, and another collection of problems can arise. If the right procedures are not followed, infections, choking, and other harm can come to the patient. For surgically placed feeding tubes, great care is needed during the first week after surgery to prevent infection, and also to prevent the tube from pulling away from the abdominal wall.

For tubes placed directly into the stomach, the staff has to make sure that the skin surrounding the tube is kept clean and dry. There are also times when the tube has to be kept covered with gauze.

Another potential problem is gastric leakage, which can occur with stomach feeding tubes.  This can be a problem because the gastric juices are acidic and can cause skin irritation if they leak out onto the body of the patient.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home who needs to use a feeding tube, remember that the home needs to take many extra precautions.

If there has been a problem with the feeding tube and you suspect that an injury has occurred because of it, please contact us by calling 1-800-297-9191 for a FREE consultation with an experienced Ohio nursing home abuse attorney or send us a Blog Message to schedule a time to talk.  Learn more about nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence by visiting

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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