Cystic fibrosis patients are encouraged to follow a diet that is high in calories. Doctors recommend that the calories come from high energy foods such as animal proteins and fats. Patients who are pancreatic insufficient have a difficult time gaining and maintaining a healthy weight. As a result, these patients are malnourished. Research has demonstrated that up to 30% of young adult patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) are malnourished.
Failure to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) can lead to lower pulmonary function, since the body is not absorbing the nutrients needed to build up strong respiratory muscles. This is just one of the reasons why weight loss is often a precursor or indicator of a respiratory infection. When patients are severely malnourished they may become candidates for what is called "nutritional rehabilitation." This means that the patient is given additional calories and energy via tube feeding.
When Is It Used?
The most popular way of tube feeding is called nasogastric (NG) feeding. Nasogastric feeding involved inserting a thick, flexible tube through the nose, back down the esophagus and into the stomach. From there liquids can either be added to or removed from the stomach. There are different scenarios in which NG feeding is used. These may include instances when a patient is experiencing a bowel blockage and must not eat solid food by mouth; post-operational use to prevent the acidic contents of the stomach from being aspirated (inhaled.) Perhaps the most familiar use of NG tubes is when a person has to have their "stomach pumped" in order to remove poison, or an overdose of oral medication.
NG-tubes are intended for infrequent, short-term use. For general purposes such as post-operative emptying of the stomach, they are only in place for two or three days. However, in the case of cystic fibrosis patients who require tube-feeding, this may be longer. Some cystic fibrosis patients have a new NG-tube inserted on a nightly basis, so they can receive nutrition while they sleep.