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A gastrointestinal tube (feeding tube or enema tube) is needed when a child has a condition that prevents normal eating or bowel movements. They help ensure a patient receives the nutrients they need. Some gastrointestinal tubes deliver nutrition directly to the stomach or small intestine while others allow enemas to be placed directly into the large intestine. They can also be used to deliver medicines.
A range of medical conditions may prevent children from eating and drinking by mouth. They include:
A gastrointestinal tube is placed into your child's body by an interventional radiologist or a pediatric surgeon during a procedure called a gastrointestinal intervention. A feeding tube or enema tube can be placed by an interventional radiologist using live imaging (X-ray or ultrasound). Live imaging helps the interventional radiologist precisely guide the tube to the correct location. Feeding tubes can be placed by a surgeon through an upper endoscopy procedure.
The most common gastrointestinal tubes are:
A gastrointestinal intervention normally takes about an hour, including time for diagnostic and interventional anesthesia.
A gastrointestinal intervention includes the following steps:
Your child must come back every six months to have the old gastrointestinal tube exchanged for a new one. This is a simple procedure that may not require sedation. The procedure allows the doctor to examine the site of the tube and reduces the chance of clogging or infection.
Placing a gastrointestinal tube has some risks. Sometimes a child has bleeding where the tube comes out of the body. Rarely, an infection can happen. With abdominal organs so close together, damage to other organs, such as the liver or spleen, is possible. In rare cases, the procedure can damage the intestine and cause peritonitis (a serious infection caused by leakage from the intestine). Another rare occurrence is an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used during the procedure. Speak with your child's doctor to learn more about the risks associated with this procedure.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition
575 Riley Hospital Dr
Indianapolis, IN 46202