Some children who have a G-tube or J-tube can also eat certain foods by mouth (orally). If one of our providers decides your child can eat certain things by mouth, we’ll help teach your child how to eat independently.
We’ll also show you how to handle potential problems, such as how to replace a G-tube if it accidentally falls out at home so the hole doesn’t begin to close.
Important: If a J-tube clogs or falls out, you must return to Gillette for a replacement. Never try to replace a J-tube yourself.
Replacing a Tube
Feeding tubes can last for more than a year before needing replacement. However, each type of tube requires a different approach.
- G-tubes: You can easily replace a G-tube yourself, without an additional procedure.
- J-tubes or GJ-tubes: Because placement of a jujunal feeding tube is difficult, you shouldn’t try to replace it at home if it falls out. Your child will need to see a doctor as soon as possible for replacement. If your child has a gastrostomy, you may give feedings temporarily through the gastrostomy to keep your child hydrated. Keeping the tube well stabilized will help to prevent dislodgment or accidental removal.
Transitioning to a Button Device
After a few months of healing, your doctor might recommend replacing the longer G-tube with a button device. This change often takes place in their office, without surgery.
The button doesn’t have any dangling parts, and it includes an anti-reflux valve. You or your child can open the button for feedings and medicines, and close it when it’s not in use. For many families, a button makes tube feedings easier and more convenient.
For J-tubes, we often use low profile, transgastric GJ-tubes. An interventional radiologist places the tube, which is threaded through the gastric stoma into the jejunum (part of the small intestine). There is a gastric port for decompression and a jejunal port for continuous feedings. Placing a GJ-tube is an outpatient procedure.
Children who don’t aspirate can often continue eating by mouth after we place a G-tube. One of our providers will let you know if your child can still eat by mouth and what formula to use with the tube.
Some children who have feeding tubes might eventually be able to eat normally by mouth. In these cases, we might remove the G-tube or button. Removal (generally in an office by a doctor or nurse) takes only minutes. The gastronomy usually heals, leaving a small scar.
Other kids use GJ-tubes temporarily after surgery or an injury, and then later go back to a G-tube. Children who need long-term jejunal feedings probably won’t be able to discontinue tube feeding altogether.