Increasingly, patients fed by gastrostomy tube are surviving the lifespan of the device. Data are scarce concerning the factors affecting the longevity and failure of gastrostomy tubes or the criteria for selection of replacement devices which leads to cost-effective patient management. The aims of the study were: to set criteria for selection of replacement gastrostomy tubes; to determine the causes of gastrostomy tube failure, and the factors affecting device longevity; and to examine the effect of initiating an educational programme for caregivers on resource utilization in long-term enteral nutrition patients.
We analyzed the clinical gastrostomy tube database compiled prospectively over 8 years by the nutrition team at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.
For 363 gastrostomy tubes inserted in 304 patients (160 women; median age 71), the median duration of gastrostomy tube use was 138 days. The total follow-up was 294 patient-years. Death occurred before the first gastrostomy tube replacement in 48 % of patients, but 20 % resumed oral nutrition. Tube failure mechanisms were: dislodgment, 28 %; perishing of tube material, 25 %; tube-related Candida albicans infection, 16 %; leakage, 7 %; and unspecified, 7 %. Of the balloon tubes and gastrostomy buttons, 8 % needed early replacement due to dislodgment and/or leakage. The cost per day for replacement percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) was Euro 2.12, for balloon tubes it was Euro 0.62, and for gastrostomy buttons Euro 1.80. Despite an increasing PEG insertion rate throughout the study period, yearly referrals for PEG-related problems dropped by 30 % between 1997 to 1999, coinciding with the initiation of an educational programme for caregivers.
Tube longevity is mainly limited by the patient's diagnosis and prognosis. The choice of replacement device should be based on clinical factors. The use of more durable materials in the manufacture of gastrostomy tubes may prolong tube life and reduce cost. Education of patients and caregivers by a multidisciplinary nutrition support team promotes independence and limits demand on the service.