Enteral nutrition, also known as tube feeding, is a way of delivering nutrition directly to your stomach or small intestine. Your doctor might recommend tube feeding if you can't eat enough to get the nutrients you need.
When tube feeding occurs outside the hospital, doctors refer to it as home enteral nutrition (HEN). A HEN care team can teach you how to feed yourself through a tube and provide support when you encounter problems.
HEN might be recommended if you have difficulty eating, but your digestive system works normally. Examples include:
- Cancer, such as head and neck cancers, or cancer treatment that makes it difficult or painful to swallow
- Neurological problems, such as stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis) and bowel obstruction
- Trauma, such as an injury to your digestive tract
Types of feeding tubes
Feeding tubes deliver liquid nutrition directly to your stomach or small intestine. Options may include:
- Feeding tube passed through the nose. If you'll need a feeding tube for a month or less, your health care provider may recommend inserting a tube through your nose and into your stomach (nasogastric tube) or your small intestine (nasojejunal tube).
- Feeding tube passed through the skin on your abdomen. If you'll need longer term tube feeding, your doctor may recommend a procedure to place a tube through the skin on your abdomen and into your stomach (gastrostomy) or into your small intestine (jejunostomy).
Which tube is best for you will depend on your situation. Discuss your options with your health care provider.
Why it's done
You may have home enteral nutrition, or tube feeding, if you can't eat enough to get the nutrients you need. A doctor may recommend it if you have head or neck cancer, if cancer treatment makes it hard or painful to swallow, or if you have a brain and spinal cord problem like stroke or ALS. Digestive tract issues and damage are other reasons for home enteral nutrition.
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Home enteral nutrition care at Mayo Clinic
Nov. 16, 2018
- ACI Nutrition Network: Guidelines for home enteral nutrition (HEN) services. 2nd Edition. NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation. https://www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/resources/nutrition/hen/hen-clinicians. Accessed Nov. 18, 2016.
- Ojo O. The challenges of home enteral tube feeding: A global perspective. Nutrients. 2015;7:2524.
- Epp LM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 22, 2016.