Feeding tubes not shown to help dementia patients

Tube feeding provides no benefit to persons with advanced dementia and may actually lower the quality of life, according to a recent comprehensive review of the literature. The practice may not supply patients with a substantive amount of nutrition, and may cause pain and discomfort, say the researchers. More details of the Cochrane Database review is found here.

At issue is artificially feeding individuals with a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube, or feeding PEG, a practice introduced in the early 1980s. First used for seriously ill children, PEGs soon became widely used as a cost-saving measure in nursing homes, which lacked sufficient staff to do assisted oral feedings. The researchers looked for scientific evidence of their benefits -- and drawbacks -- and concluded PEGs are not necessarily a humane choice for assisted feeding.