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Feeding Tubes Pros and Cons

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule May 6, 2019
Feeding tube which serves as the last resort of nutrition for babies and elderly, can expose the concerned individual to several risks. Provided here is some information about the various pros and cons of using a feeding tube.
In certain medical conditions or cases, normal ingestion of food becomes nearly impossible. In such cases, feeding tube is the only option to provide nutrition to the person. However, the feeding tube which acts like a life saver to the patient may lead to several risks and complications.
If these tubes are used in babies, then it may give rise to many developmental problems. Thus, the advantages of feeding tube come with certain perils, which need to be addressed before it is used to save the person's life.

Feeding Tubes Pros and Cons in Babies

Feeding tubes are recommended for babies when they do not show strong sucking and swallowing skills, which makes oral ingestion of food almost impossible. Some infants cannot coordinate the sucking movement and the movement of pushing the food in the pharynx by swallowing.
Apart from this, certain respiratory or cardiac disorders may exhaust the baby before it can consume sufficient calories, while in some cases gastrointestinal disorders may cause reflux of the food. In all of the above cases, a feeding tube can suffice the nutritional requirements of the baby.
However, babies who are fed through a tube, also show certain health concerns. Babies who are force fed for a long time, show hyper-extension of neck along with scapular adduction and shoulder girdle elevation.
Some children may also develop certain respiratory disorders, due to arrhythmic breathing pattern. Hence, tube feeding should be considered only as a means to provide nutrition until the child improves his/her oral feeding skills.

Using Feeding Tubes for Elderly

Elderly people with certain critical health issues may also be put on tube feeding. Digestive health begins to diminish as you grow old. Hence, very old people often show poor digestive abilities. If proper nutrition is not provided on time, it can risk their lives.
Feeding through a tube becomes inevitable during times of trauma or surgery, as oral ingestion becomes difficult. Medical conditions like dementia, stroke, etc. may also prevent an individual from normal ingestion of food.
Feeding tubes for cancer patients serve a great purpose during such terminal illnesses. However, using them for the elderly involve myriad risks and complications.

Risks of Feeding Tubes


People who are put on a feeding tube often experience discomfort due to gas that enters through the site of insertion. If the tube is not inserted or placed properly, it can give way to air which causes a lot of discomfort. Also, as the human digestive system is not designed to digest only fluids, the person can take some time to adjust to a liquid diet.


If there is a leakage at the site of insertion, it may lead to free entry to bacteria and other pathogens. The incision at the site of insertion may lead to misplacement of the tube, which provides passage to bacteria.


Clogging is one of the most common problems with a feeding tube. The feeding tubes should be cleaned before and after every meal and must be replaced periodically. Clogging also limits the amount of liquid that can be given through a tube.


Tube diet does not provide any kind of gastronomic pleasure to the patient. Eventually, the patient loses interest in meals and goes into depression. Less than 40% of the patients who are tube fed survive more than a year.
The benefits and risks of feeding tubes must be considered while recommending them to babies as well as elderly. In babies, emphasis should be upon strengthening the oral ingestion skills of the babies, while elderly patients must be provided with proper care and caution while tube feeding.