Commonly asked questions nutrition & enteral tube feeding

What is enteral nutrition?

In general, enteral nutrition is the administration of liquids to provide nutrition, especially in those with medical conditions that inhibit them from swallowing or taking in their food by mouth.


What does ETF stand for?

Enteral tube feeding – when people receive liquid nutrition from a feeding tube.


Where are feeding tubes inserted?

Small, thin feeding tubes are most often inserted into the nose, or less often, the mouth. They may also be surgically inserted into the stomach or intestine. The placement of the feeding tube is dependent on the reason for its insertion. For example, if a person’s digestive system functions normally, but he or she has difficulty swallowing, a feeding tube could be placed in through the nose, down the esophagus and directly into the stomach.


What are the methods used for tube feeding?

The most common methods are gravity, pump-assisted and syringe. You can learn more at How does a feeding tube work? [Link to article within this section]


Do feeding tubes come in different sizes?

Yes, feeding tubes are available in various sizes in order to meet the needs of the patient. Your doctor will determine the size of your feeding tube. The size is based on the tube’s diameter. This is measured in “French units,” which are equal to 0.33 millimeters.


How do you care for your feeding tube?

Your health care provider will give you specific recommendations for cleaning your feeding tube. In general, you should wash the skin around the feeding tube with warm, soapy water at least once a day. If you notice any redness, swelling, pain or any other unusual symptom, you should contact your health care provider right away.


How long do you use the same feeding tube?

Usually, you’ll use the same feeding tube for several months. Your health care provider will be able to give you specific information on how long you can use your feeding tube. Additionally, review the manufacturer’s instructions for feeding tube usage information.


After I’ve opened a can of formula, how long can it hang in the bag?

The formula should be kept at room temperature for no more than 8 to 12 hours. But you should always check the manufacturer’s label for proper handling and storage guidelines.


What are the supply limits, or the number of feeding tubes, that can be ordered through my health care insurance for tube feeding?

The number of feeding tubes allowable varies depending on your health insurance provider.


Related articles:
What types of feeding tubes are available?
How does a feeding tube work?
Specialty infant formulas 101