List of Pros and Cons of Feeding Tubes

Feeding tubes can be permanent or temporary solutions to nutrient deficiencies. If a patient is having difficulty swallowing, a feeding tube is one way to make sure that they are still getting the nutrients their body requires. The decision of whether to insert a feeding tube can be a difficult one, particularly if you are put in the position of having to choose for someone else. Here are some of the pros and cons associated with feeding tubes to help you make that choice.

List of Pros of Feeding Tubes

1. Provides Nutrition
Feeding tubes are generally only needed in severe cases where the patient is very weak. In those cases, the patient cannot afford to lose any more of their strength. Nutrients are absolutely vital for survival. A feeding tube is one way to provide those nutrients.

2. Temporary
Feeding tubes do not have to be permanent. If a person is suffering from an illness, they may need a feeding tube for a time. Once they recover enough strength to resume eating normally, the tube can be removed with no permanent effects.

List of Cons of Feeding Tubes

1. Infection
Some feeding tubes are inserted through the nose into the stomach or small intestines. These are generally temporary feeding tubes. In some cases, a more permanent feeding tube is required. These tubes generally go directly into the stomach through an incision. In these cases, there is a risk of infection at the incision, particularly as the patient is already so weak and vulnerable.

2. Overflow
There is a natural system in place that lets your stomach tell your brain when you are full and to stop eating. The stomach has no such communication with the feeding tube. This means that there is a risk of the stomach overfilling. This can lead to an infection and in severe cases it may cause a backup of fluid in the lungs.

3. Discomfort
Feeding tubes are not comfortable. This can be especially problematic in older patients with Alzheimer’s who have difficulty understanding the purpose of the tube. Many of these patients try to pull their feeding tube out any time they are not being carefully watched. Sometimes the only solution in these situations is to sedate the patient to ensure that the tube remains in place.

Deciding whether an aging parent should have a feeding tube or not is very difficult. Some people believe that it just adds discomfort to the final days of a person’s life. Drafting an Advanced Directive gives you the opportunity to make this type of decision for yourself and relieves your loved ones of that responsibility. Knowing that they are following your wishes, whatever those are, can be a great source of peace and comfort.