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Saint Michael’s Medical Center Clinical Registered Dietitian Nada Ismail holds a bottle of tube feeding formula.

For Feeding Tube Awareness Week, we sat down with Saint Michael’s Medical Center Clinical Registered Dietitian Nada Ismail to ask her some questions about this simple, yet lifesaving device.

Q: What is tube feeding?
A: Tube feeding is when a special liquid food formula containing protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are given through a tube into the stomach or small bowel.

Q: Why do some patients have feeding tubes?
 All people need food to live. Feeding tubes are required when nutrient requirements cannot be met by regular food intake. This can be the result of numerous clinical conditions, including illness, decreased appetite, difficulties in swallowing, or some type of surgery that interferes with eating. For these patients, their outcomes could be clinically worse if they’re not eating enough.

Q: How long can a patient be on a feeding tube?
 People can live on tube feeding for as long as it is needed or they can be used for a short time and then removed when the person can begin to eat normally again.

Q: Are there different types of feeding tubes?
 Tube feeding can be provided either via a naso-gastric tube placed through the nose, or a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube directly into the stomach, both of which require a partially functioning gut.

Ismail received her bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Rutgers University and her master’s degree in dietetics from Saint Elizabeth University.