When home enteral nutrition is needed, there is still, despite the undisputed increase in the quality of life that can be achieved with a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG), a reservation in its use because this technique and its maintenance is considered to be very costly. We aim to assess the true cost of home enteral nutrition using the oral route, a nasogastric tube, and PEG.
The data of 65 patients who required home enteral nutrition during 1996, were analyzed retrospectively. The access route was a nasogastric tube in 20 cases, 18 patients had PEG, and 27 candidates used an oral route. The average age was 56 years. 50% were men and 50% were women. The most common diagnoses that led to the indication were oropharyngeal-maxillofacial neoplasms and neurological disorders. In all cases the material and formula used was assessed, as were the associated complications and the cost of the at home enteral nutrition.
The average duration of the treatment was 175 +/- 128 days, and this was similar in all three groups. The average formula/day cost was slightly higher in the patients using the oral access route. The average total day cost and the average material/day cost was slightly higher in patients with a PEG. Patients with a PEG presented fewer complications than those with a nasogastric tube. The cost derived from possible complications must be higher in the nasogastric tube group, especially considering the repeated tube changes due to obstruction or loss.
The cost of home enteral nutrition is slightly lower if one uses a nasogastric tube. The greater incidence of complications that were mild but required a tube change, in this case a nasogastric tube, suggests higher indirect costs. The oral route is associated with the need for special formulae that are more expensive.