Objectives: Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tubes have become an excellent alternative for the long-term management of patients with proximal obstructions of the gastrointestinal tract. However, their use has limitations and can be associated with serious complications. We therefore studied the frequency and severity of complications related to the use of PEG tubes in our clinic.
Design: All adults (aged 18 years and above) in whom a PEG tube was placed between January 1 1994 and January 1 1999 at the Free University Hospital in Amsterdam were included in this study. In initial cases, the indication and procedure were individually judged according to a liberal protocol. However, after several major complications, a strict procedure protocol was implemented in September 1996.
Results: During the study period, 263 PEG tubes were placed in 254 patients with head and neck cancer (n = 183; 70%), neurological disorders (n = 52; 20%) or severe upper gastrointestinal motility disorders (n = 28; 11%). In period I, 167 PEG tubes were placed and in period II, 96 PEG tubes were inserted. Patients were followed for a median 111 days. Minor complications occurred in 13% of the patients. Major complications occurred in 8% of the patients. In period I, the percentage of major complications was higher than in period II (9.5% versus 6%).
Conclusion: PEG tube placement is a safe procedure when performed according to strict guidelines. By doing so, PEG tubes allow optimal feeding for prolonged periods with the occasional need for replacement of the tube. PEG tubes should not be introduced in acutely ill patients, patients with a short life expectancy and preferably not to patients with severe coughing.