What is a gastrostomy tube (g-tube)?
A gastrostomy tube, also known as a g-tube or a feeding tube, helps children get the nutrition they need by providing calories, fluids and medicine. A g-tube may be needed when a child cannot eat and drink safely, or well enough, using his or her mouth.
Using a g-tube improves your child’s quality of life by allowing the body to stay properly fed and hydrated. If your child’s health improves, your doctor can remove the g-tube later on.
Why does my child need a g-tube?
A child may get a gastrostomy tube for a variety of reasons, most commonly because he or she:
- Is unable to gain weight due to not consuming enough calories
- Has trouble swallowing, eating, drinking or taking medicine
- Breathes food or fluid into his or her lungs when swallowing
- Has an esophagus that doesn’t function properly
- Needs more calories than he or she can ingest through his or her mouth
What can patients and families expect from g-tube placement?
G-tubes are placed by a pediatric surgeon who performs a surgery called a gastrostomy. Most of the time pediatric surgeons at Children’s Hospital Colorado use a minimally-invasively surgery technique called laparoscopy. This means that the surgeon uses small incisions instead of a large one and a small camera to see inside of your child’s belly during surgery. Kids who have minimally-invasive surgery heal faster due to the smaller scars and have less pain during recovery.
About the gastrostomy surgery:
- During surgery, the surgeon creates a small hole through the abdomen and into the stomach.
- Then, a gastrostomy tube made of silicone is placed into the stomach through the hole.
- Your child’s gastrostomy tube is the width of a chopstick and is held inside his or her stomach by a water-filled balloon or an internal disk.
- Between eight to 12 hours after surgery, you can use the g-tube to feed your child. The stitches dissolve by themselves and do not need to be removed; the incision heals within one to two weeks.
Types of gastrostomy tubes
Your pediatric surgeon will decide what type of g-tube is best for your child. There are two types of g-tubes:
- Skin level or “buttons” are the most common type of g-tube that we use at Children’s Colorado. They are low profile and not noticeable under normal clothing.
- Long tubes that hang outside the body are generally only recommended if the skin level g-tube isn’t a good match for your child. If your child does have a long tube put in, we may be able to switch it out for a skin level g-tube at a later date.
How long does gastrostomy surgery take?
The surgery to place a g-tube usually lasts about an hour, but can vary in length.
How long will my child stay in the hospital?
Most children only spend one night in the hospital after a gastrostomy tube placement. Before leaving, your care team will make sure:
- You know how to care for the g-tube and feed your child.
- The g-tube is working properly and your child is comfortable.
Living with a g-tube
Pediatric surgeons at Children’s Colorado understand that you may be concerned about how your child will live once they have a g-tube placed. Rest assured knowing that the goal is to help your child have a better quality of life. Crawling on the floor, playing sports and participating in activities, like swimming, is okay and even encouraged in order for your child to have a healthy lifestyle.
If you have concerns or questions about your child’s g-tube, please contact one of our nurses at 720-777-6571.
Caring for your child's g-tube
Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for gastrostomy tube placement?
Our experienced team places over 200 g-tubes in children every year
Pediatric surgeons at Children’s Colorado are experienced at gastrostomy tube placement; in fact, our experts perform this surgery over 200 times every year. This means that our doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are experts in caring for children with feeding tubes and managing any concerns that come up. Children’s Colorado offers ongoing follow-up care to make sure that your child’s gastrostomy site stays healthy and the tube is functioning well.
Our care team is specially trained to work with babies, kids and teens
All members of your care team at Children’s Colorado have been specially-trained to work with kids.
- Pediatric anesthesiologists know how to keep your child safe and pain-free before, during and after surgery.
- Pediatric surgeons understand that surgery can be scary, which is why they explain everything to you and your child in an age-appropriate way.
- Pediatric nurses at Children’s Colorado have been awarded with Magnet recognition, a prestigious recognition for excellence in nursing.
Specific conditions treated
Not every child with one of the following health concerns will need a gastrostomy tube; however, here are some common conditions that a child may have when one is needed and placed:
If you have any questions about your child’s gastronomy surgery, please call our nurses at 720-777-6571.
The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation