Taking Care of Your Feeding Tube

Caring for your feeding tube can be overwhelming and intimidating. Tiffany McCall, an ARA paramedic and interventional case coordinator, walks you through the steps for caring for your feeding tube. She covers the equipment, inspecting your dressing, flushing your tube, feeding, giving medication through the tube, and showering safely.

Hi, my name is Tiffany. I’m one of the paramedics with Austin Radiological Association. I’m here today to talk to you about your newly placed feeding tube.

Your Equipment

This part of the feeding tube is located inside your body. Everything from this disk outward should be visible to you.

With most feeding tubes, you’re going to have three access ports, one of the ports you’ll never use. This is the port that fills the balloon, that holds your feeding tube in place. That’ll be filled before you go home, and at no point will you have to deflate or reinflate that bulb.

Please understand, coming home from different hospitals and different clinics, you may have equipment that looks slightly different. Here’s the good news. Accessing all of the equipment, regardless of color or different colored ports, is going to happen the same way.

When you come home from the hospital, you will notice that you have a small disk on the outside of your skin. This is not taped down or held down with a Tegaderm. Everything is held in place by that balloon inside your body.

Inspecting Your Dressing

Every day, you should inspect the area around your feeding tube. Look at the skin under and around the disk. You should be able to lift this pretty easily from your skin. Be sure and clean that skin every day and allow it to dry. Wet skin under the disk will become irritated.

In the event that your feeding tube becomes dislodged or displaced from your body, don’t panic. This is okay. Take a piece of cotton gauze, cover the entrance side of your feeding tube, call your referring physician, or head to your local emergency department.

Flushing Your Tube & Feeding

When you’re ready for a little nutrition, take your 50 cc slip tip syringe and fill it with normal everyday tap water. You’ll insert the end of your syringe into the port marked “food” or “feed only.” Go ahead and inject that tap water into this port so that you’ve cleaned your port and you have access for nutrition.

After you’ve flushed your port with tap water, go ahead and put your feeding materials into your 50cc syringe or load up your feeding pump and reconnect it into that port. Gravity is your friend today. Use gravity to allow this to drain into your feeding tube. You can elevate this as necessary to give yourself just a little more gravity to get it in faster.

When you’re finished, disconnect your pump or your slip tip syringe, and refill with 50cc’s of tap water. Go ahead and flush your port one more time to get the rest of your nutrition out of the port.

Replace your cap, and you’re ready for next time. 

Giving Medication Through the Tube

When it’s time to take your medication, you have a special port just for that. This should be marked with the words “meds only.” In order to take your medication, uncap the top of this port. This particular brand and manufacturer has two different caps in this port. This is simply to make it easier if you’re using a smaller syringe. You can insert your medications through either one.

Just like taking nutrition, any time you’re ready to take your medication, you flush before and after your medication. You can use tap water to do this as well.

Pro Tip: Coca Cola can be used if your valve is clogged with dried meds or food.

Today, I’m using a 10cc slip tip syringe, so I’m going to replace, after I’ve flushed, the large button and remove the smaller one. This will fit the smaller slip tip syringe. After you’ve flushed, insert your syringe and slowly inject your medication.

Liquid medication is always preferable when using your feeding tube. If you’re unable to get liquid medication, you can use a pill crusher. Grind your pills to a very fine consistency and mix with 30cc’s of fluid if you’re an adult. If you’re a child, use 5 to 10 cc’s of fluid. Once the pill, crushed, is mixed in the fluid, you may inject this into your port. And, as always, you want to follow with that flush of normal tap water.

Showering Safely

If you have a handheld shower head, using that can help direct the water away from your drain site. If you don’t have a handheld device, try to keep your back to the shower head. As you need to rinse the front of your body, just be aware of where that water is traveling.

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