When our babies have trouble eating or drinking on their own, they may require tube feeding. There are many potential reasons for a baby needing a feeding tube, from premature birth to a medical condition.
You’ve probably heard that there are six different types of feeding tubes, but the G-tube is one of the most common long-term tubes. Another long-term type of feeding tube that you may have heard of is the PEG tube.
If your doctor advises that your baby needs a G or PEG tube, you might be wondering, “What’s the difference?” If G-tubes and PEG tubes both provide the same function, is one better than the other?
To summarize, G-tube and PEG tubes are basically the same; there are just a couple of different nuances.
What Are PEG and G-Tubes?
We know that PEG and G-tubes are feeding tubes, but what makes them different from any other type of feeding tube?
G-tube is short for a gastrostomy tube. It’s a small plastic tube with an external bumper to prevent it from dislodging and slipping further into the stomach.
The G and the PEG tubes are placed by a gastroenterologist directly through the stomach’s abdominal wall through surgery. They’re a more permanent way of providing nutritional support through a tube since they are more tricky to remove.
G-tubes may be given to someone if they need a feeding tube for more than three months, as are PEG tubes. They either have a port known as a button or a long tube attached. Food is sent through the tube by either using a bag and pump or a syringe.
What Does PEG Stand For?
PEG is an acronym for Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy, which is one of the procedures used to place a G-tube. A PEG tube is essentially the same as a G-tube, so the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
However, not every G-tube will be a PEG tube. PEG tubes are one of the subsets of G-tubes.
As a third category, PEG-J tubes or gastro-jejunostomy tubes are placed in the jejunum by a healthcare provider, and they are slightly different from standard PEG tubes and G-tubes.
Why Would My Baby Need a PEG or G-tube?
There are a number of reasons why a child might need a permanent feeding tube. Generally, feeding tubes are needed when a child has difficulty swallowing, which can be caused by many different genetic conditions.
A feeding tube may be needed for those with allergies, gastrointestinal issues, or anatomical differences. Conditions like cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis may also require the use of a feeding tube.
Although premature babies may need a feeding tube initially, most of the time, they won’t need a permanent tube, so they will be given one that goes through the nose (an NG, ND, or NJ tube) until they can eat on their own.
Feeding tubes help by providing nutrients to people who aren’t able to get them any other way. The food given will depend on the age, so babies are given either breastmilk or formula, depending on whether or not they have specialized nutritional needs.
What Other Uses Does a Feeding Tube Have?
A G-tube may be needed for other reasons as well. Although feeding tubes are used primarily for feeding, they can also help provide fluids and medicine that would normally be taken by way of mouth.
Feeding tubes might be used to help reduce the amount of gas in the stomach, which can help with bloating and distention. This can be accomplished by using suction to suck the gas out.
Feeding tubes also allow doctors access to the stomach so they can remove undigested food if necessary, although it is unlikely that your baby will have that issue.
Is There a Difference Between PEG Tubes and G Tubes?
Even though PEG tubes and G-tubes are essentially the same, not every G-tube can technically be called a PEG tube. PEG tubes are called PEG tubes because of the procedure that is used to place them.
There are three different ways used to place G-tubes:
- A Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy
- Surgically with small incisions and a laparoscope
- Surgically with a large incision
Any one of these surgeries might be used to place a G-tube, but the Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy is quickly becoming the most common.
There are also many different types of tubes that are used to make G-tubes, like a MIC-key, MIC, and Cor-Pak. Along with those, there are two ways the food bags can be attached using an extension tube.
Button G-tubes are another commonly used tube. They have a button on the outside that provides access to the enteral nutrition feeding tube. With button tubes, the patient may have a balloon filled with water to help the tube remain in place.
Another possible tube is a long tube. A long tube is often held in place by either a balloon port or stitches. On the other side, sometimes, a circular dressing known as a Hollister dressing is placed around the tube to keep it in place with a ziplock-like device.
Why Are There Different Types of G-Tubes?
Certain types of tubes are better suited for specific patient needs and what options are available to them.
Your baby’s doctor will help you figure out what options your baby has and the best way to care for them.
How Are G-Tubes Placed?
G-tubes can be placed surgically, or they can be placed with Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy. Either way, nurses will need to take care of the wound and teach you how to care for a baby with a feeding tube.
Your baby’s doctor will help you determine which placement option is best. Although a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy is a good option, some conditions may require surgery instead.
Generally, a pediatric surgeon will place the tube by making a small incision or maybe more in your baby’s belly area. Next, they will make an opening in the stomach, which is called a stoma — the feeding tube is inserted into this stoma.
Before the surgery, your baby’s doctor will explain the plan. After the surgery, the patient will likely stay in the hospital until the first few feedings are done.
The tube will need to be changed out periodically, which can be done without any further surgery. After some training, you should be able to do it at home if the doctor gives the okay.
What Is a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy?
A Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy is an endoscopic surgery. Usually, a radiologist will do this procedure.
They use an endoscope — a small camera with a tiny light attached. The endoscope is at the end of a very small, flexible tube sent through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.
Using the light, the doctor will look for the best place to make the incision and place the PEG tube. Then they’ll fill up the small balloon to keep it in place. Then, the disc will be placed on the outside.
Generally, this procedure is performed under anesthesia or sedation to avoid any discomfort.
How To Keep a Baby’s Feeding Tube Clean
Part of the process is learning how to keep the feeding tube clean. This process is usually fairly simple since the nurses or other healthcare professionals should teach you the best way to clean it and help you practice.
Typically, caregivers are advised to use a clean bag of formula every day. Then, after each feeding, flush any food out of the feeding tube using water and a syringe. As long as you follow the instructions given, you should not find this particularly difficult.
Which Feeding Tube Is Best for Infants?
Since G-tubes and PEG tubes are essentially the same thing, neither is intrinsically better than the other. The procedure for the PEG tube is the most ideal, but sometimes it may not be possible. Both G-tube and PEG tubes are helpful long-term feeding tubes.
If your baby needs a feeding tube, it’s important to find comfortable and adaptable clothing. The clothes should never bother the site where the feeding tube is.
An option like the Tabeeze Bottom-Up Baby Bodysuit is the designed for feet-first dressing.. With the (nickel-free) snaps at the shoulders, it’s easier to dress and undress babies for whatever needs your attention — diaper blow-outs, skin-to-skin bonding opportunities, or cleaning a feeding tube.
What To Watch For: Feeding Tubes and Babies
As with any medical procedure, there is always the possibility of complications. Usually, G-tubes can last for a while with just a little bit of upkeep (at least until they need to be replaced).
However, accidents happen, so if one does, call your family’s doctor or surgeon.
Even though there are precautions to keep your baby’s feeding tube in place, there is a small possibility that the feeding tube can become dislodged. If this happens before the first follow-up, it’s best to call the surgeon immediately. After the initial visit, a trained caregiver or parent can replace the tube on their own.
Another thing that may occur is leaking, which is a common issue with G-tubes. There should be a dressing around the tube to protect the wound and absorb any leakage. If you notice the gauze dressing being soaked through quickly, it’s best to call your baby’s doctor or surgeon.
You may notice dark pink or red tissues around the tube. This could be a granulation tissue, and it’s completely normal. It’s how the body responds to the tube. It is possible for this tissue to cause irritation and leakage, though.
Usually, this tissue can be treated with cauterization with silver nitrate or topical creams. If you have concerns about the tissue and think it may need to be cauterized, it’s best to discuss it with a doctor.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, like blood or an odd smell, you may want to contact a doctor. Symptoms like vomiting, skin growth, a fever, swelling, or pus should be a sign to call your healthcare team to figure out what is going on.
Learning More About Your Baby’s Needs
Learning how to take care of a new baby is challenging to begin with, but sometimes, there can be other challenges that you need to adapt to as well. As our babies grow, we learn more, eventually becoming experts in everything our family needs.
PEG tubes and G-tubes are essentially the same, so many of the same rules apply to them. The only potential difference is tube insertion — PEG tube placement is different from the G-tube site and can be more low-profile in some cases.
These tubes can be helpful for babies who need a feeding tube long-term. Learning about your little one’s needs and how to fulfill them is the first step on the road of parenthood.