Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, otherwise known as a PEG tube or just PEG, is basically a feeding tube. The flexible tube is inserted right into the stomach so food, liquid, and medications can be provided. There are a few different pros and cons to a PEG, this is especially dependent on the patient getting the PEG.
The way a PEG procedure works is, a physician guides a thin flexible tube called an endoscope through the mouth, down the esophagus, and to the stomach. The endoscope typically has a light and camera on it, so the doctor can ensure proper placement of the PEG tube. An incision is made in the stomach and the PEG tube is inserted. It rests in the stomach with a thin tube that comes out of the abdomen. Depending on the patient, occasionally very minimal solids can be ingested through the mouth.
According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, “patients who have difficulty swallowing, problems with their appetite or an inability to take adequate nutrition through the mouth can benefit from this procedure.” A PEG can be useful for patients who have temporary problems swallowing. A PEG can last for a few months or a few years. However, it is important to assess the reasons for needed a PEG.
If you have a loved one who has just gotten into a bad car accident and has harmed their throat or neck in some way and can no longer swallow, a temporary PEG could be the right choice. Another example, could be someone who just recently suffered a stroke and is having trouble swallowing. A PEG insertion is a great way to ensure they can get the nutrition they need to make a full recovery.
However, if we have an elderly loved one who is relying on their PEG to stay alive and eat – this might be something we should look deeper into. We need to remember that although PEGs can prolong life, it might not be the best option for everyone. Think of your favorite meal – maybe it’s a steak cooked to medium rare perfection, ratatouille, eggplant parmigiana, or penne a la vodka. Sometimes when we get older, food is one of the few pleasures we have left and getting a PEG tube, which does have some medical risks, can affect quality of life (Kirsch).
As stated above, a PEG is not for everyone. There are definitely benefits like ensuring our loved one is getting the nutrition they need. In addition, we also need to address those who may not necessarily need a PEG and understand these situations to make the right call. Above all, consult your doctor and talk with them about the best options and next steps to take.
Kirsch, Michael. “Feeding Tubes and the Culture of Patient Safety.” KevinMD.com, 25 Mar. 2015, www.kevinmd.com/blog/2015/04/feeding-tubes-and-the-culture-of-patient-safety.html.
“Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG).” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/percutaneous-endoscopic-gastrostomy-peg.
“Understanding Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG).” ASGE, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-peg.