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Gastrostomy feeding tube - bolus

Alternate Names

Feeding - gastrostomy tube - bolus; G-tube - bolus; Gastrostomy button - bolus; Bard Button - bolus; MIC-KEY - bolus

What to Expect at Home

Your child’s gastrostomy tube or “G-tube” is a special tube in your child’s stomach that will help deliver food and medicines until your child can chew and swallow. Sometimes, it is replaced by a button, called a Bard Button or MIC-KEY, 3 to 8 weeks after surgery.

These feedings will help your child grow strong and healthy. Many parents have done this with good results.

You will quickly get used to feeding your child through the tube, or button. It will take about the same time as a regular feeding, around 20 to 30 minutes. There are two ways to feed through the system: the syringe method and the gravity method. Each method is described below. Make sure you follow all of the nurse’s instructions as well.

Your doctor will tell you the right mix of formula or blended feedings to use, and how often to feed your child. Have this food ready at room temperature before you start, by taking it out of the refrigerator for about 30 to 40 minutes. Do not add more formula or solid foods before you talk to your child’s nurse.

Feeding bags should be changed every 24 hours. All of the equipment can be cleaned with hot, soapy water and hung up to dry.

Remember to wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of germs. Take good care of yourself as well, so that you can stay calm and positive, and cope with stress.

Caring for the G-tube site

You will clean your child’s skin around the G-tube 1 - 3 times a day with mild soap and water. Try to remove any drainage or crusting on the skin and tube. Be gentle. Dry the skin well with a clean towel.

The skin should heal in 2 - 3 weeks.

Your provider may also want you to put a special absorbent pad or gauze around the G-tube site. This should be changed at least daily or if it becomes wet or soiled.

Do not use any ointments, powders, or sprays around the G-tube unless told to do so by your health care provider.

Tips for Feeding Time with Your Child

Make sure your child is sitting up either in your arms or in a high chair.

If your child fusses or cries while feeding, pinch the tube with your fingers to stop the feeding until your child is more calm and quiet.

Feeding time is a social, happy time. Make it pleasant and fun. Your child will enjoy gentle talk and play.

Try to keep your child from pulling on the tube.

Since your child isn’t using their mouth yet, your doctor will discuss with you other ways to allow your child to suck and develop mouth and jaw muscles.

Feeding Your Child with the Gravity Method

Your nurse will show you the best way to use your system without getting air into the tubes. Follow these steps first:

  • Wash your hands
  • Gather your supplies (feeding set, extension set if needed for a G-button or MIC-KEY, measuring cup with spout, room temperature food, and a glass of water).
  • Check that your formula or food is warm or room temperature by putting a few droplets on your wrist.

If your child has a G-tube, close the clamp on the feeding tube.

  • Hang the bag high on a hook and squeeze the drip chamber below the bag to fill it halfway with food.
  • Next, open the clamp so that the food fills the long tube with no air left in the tube.
  • Close the clamp
  • Insert the catheter into the G-tube.
  • Open toward the clamp and adjust the feeding rate, following your health care provider's instructions.
  • When you are finished feeding, your nurse may recommend that you add water to the tube to flush it out.
  • G-tubes will then need to be clamped at the tube, and the feeding system will need to be removed.

If you are using a G-button, or MIC-KEY, system:

  • Attach the feeding tube to the feeding system first, then fill it with formula or food.
  • Release the clamp when you are ready to adjust the feeding rate, following your health care provider's instructions.
  • When you are finished feeding, your nurse may recommend that you add water to the tube to the button.

Feeding Your Child with the Syringe Method

Your nurse will teach you the best way to use your system without getting air into the tubes. Follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Gather your supplies (a syringe, feeding tube, extension set if needed for a G-button or MIC-KEY, measuring cup with spout, room temperature food, water, rubber band, clamp, and safety pin).
  • Check that your formula or food is warm or room temperature by putting a few droplets on your wrist.

If your child has a G-tube:

  • Insert the syringe into the open end of the feeding tube.
  • Pour the formula into the syringe until it is half full and unclamp the tube.

If you are using a G-button, or MIC-KEY, system:

  • Open the flap and insert the bolus feeding tube.
  • Insert the syringe into the open end of the extension set and clamp the extension set.
  • Pour the food into the syringe until it is half full. Unclamp the extension set briefly to fill it full of food and then close the clamp again.
  • Open the button flap and connect the extension set to the button.
  • Unclamp the extension set to begin feeding.
  • Hold the tip to the syringe no higher than your child's shoulders. If the food is not flowing, squeeze the tube in downward strokes to bring the food down.
  • You can wrap a rubber band around the syringe and safety pin it to the top of your shirt so that your hands are free.

When you are finished feeding, your nurse may recommend that you add water to the tube to flush it out. G-tubes will then need to be clamped at the tube and the feeding system, and removed. For a G-button or MIC-KEY, you’ll close the clamp and then remove the tube.

Bloating after Feeding

If your child’s belly becomes hard or swollen after a feeding, try venting, or “burping,” the tube or button:

  • Attach an empty syringe to the G-tube and unclamp it to allow air to flow out.
  • Attach the extension set to the MIC-KEY button and open the tube to the air to release.
  • Ask your doctor for a special decompression tube for “burping” the Bard Button.

Giving Medicines to Your Child

Sometimes you may need to give medicines to your child through the tube. Follow these guidelines:

  • Try to give your child medicine before a feeding so that they work better. You may also be asked to give your child medicines on an empty stomach outside of mealtime.
  • The medicine should be liquid, or finely crushed and dissolved in water, so that the tube does not get blocked. Check with your doctor or pharmacist on how to do this.
  • Always flush the tube with a little water between medicines. This will make sure that all the medicine goes in the stomach and is not left in the feeding tube.
  • Never mix medicines.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s nurse or doctor if your child:

  • Seems hungry after the feeding
  • Has diarrhea after feedings
  • Has a hard and swollen belly 1 hour after feedings
  • Seems to be in pain
  • Has changes in their condition
  • Is on new medication
  • Is constipated and passing hard, dry stools

Also call the doctor if:

  • The feeding tube has come out and you do not know how to replace it.
  • There is leakage around the tube or system.
  • There is redness or irritation on the skin area around the tube.

References

Altman GB, ed. Feeding and medicating via a gastrostomy tube. Delmar’s Fundamental and Advanced Nursing Skills. 2nd Ed. Albany, NY: Delmar Thomson Learning; 2003: 742-749.


Review Date: 10/8/2012
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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