How long can a person live with a feeding tube?

6 answers | Last updated: Apr 05, 2017
puerto rico asked...

How long can a person live with a feeding tube before reaching a critical state? What's the typical life expectancy with a feeding tube?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

To be honest, this really depends on the person and why the tube is being placed.  If someone has a stroke and cannot swallow, they can often survive for many years with a feeding tube.   

People who get feeding tubes due to weight loss from dementia tend not to do well over time.  Studies show that tube feedings in these patients do not really increase weight or reduce aspiration risk.   Aspiration (swallowing secretions/ food into the lungs) can cause  severe pneumonia, which are difficult to treat.  Since these patients tend to be frail already, this type of pneumonia can often be overwhelming to their fragile system, especially if it happens often.  Therefore, they can continue to decline despite having artificial nutrition.

Please speak to a health care provider you trust about making this decision.  It really needs to be discussed, with the risks and the benefits clearly outlined for you.


Community Answers

Billybutt answered...

a person with HD can live with liquid and the feeding tube dispite the doctors orders of nothing by mouth. i fouund coffee inthe mornings is fine also giving him ice cream in the evenings plus the feeding by tube.

Frank808 answered...

My father-in-law is 91 yrs. old and has had a P.E.G. tube for at least 15 years. The tube was placed due to difficulty swallowing after his second stroke.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Our daughter has a rare variation of Downs Syndrome and she has had a g tube for 20 years. She is as well as she has ever been. God is merciful.

Miracle m2 answered...

I am 68 years old ( 6' 3" --183 lbs,) I have had a feeding tube for four years ( tongue cancer / high dosage radiation and chemo ). I have problems with aspiration into my lungs -- I work out 6 days a week ( light weights, push ups, etc. ) and I walk 1/2 mile 7 days a week -- My schedule, with tube feedings ( 2 times a day ) , hydration ( 6 to 8 times a day ), tube area cleaning ( very important and time consuming --2 to 3 times a day ), showers, and basic activities ( Fantasy Football and much more ) along with my work outs and walking -- takes UNBELIEVABLE DETERMINATION. During my walks, I usually pray ( you can look up at the sky and talk directly with God ) -- AND my absolute conclusion is -- Prayer is VERY important -- you MUST ask for God's help -- Thank You God for helping me and letting me live. -- My point is -- If I can do it -- You can do it. -- May God bless you !

A fellow caregiver answered...

Our daughter with autism and epilepsy stopped eating, and so a year ago she was given a g-tube. She had been eating on and off by mouth, even iwth thr g-tube, but at the present time she is only getting Glucerna 1.5 and ONLY via the g-tube. She has been on a foley for the past few weeks as well. The hospital had her on haldol and other antipsychotics for behavioral control and these made matters worse, but she is now off these. She also fell out of the bed and broke her hip. She is in her 40's so not "elderly" but I see her getting weaker. On good days she will read a few sentences to us and enjoys being read to. It is agreed by all she does not have "dementia". But from a naive as well as medical view, it is apparent that she is declining. My question is how much of this is due the diet of canned liquid; it would seem she would be missing some basic food ingredients and trace elements. Hospital does not want us to bring food from home prepared fro the g-tube in the Vitamix. If only she would start to eat again. If she does not I can only see her getting weaker. On the positive side, we have a place for her to live with assistance - - IF she can become sufficiently well. This is not an answer so much as a short description of our experience.