Gastrostomy Tubes Placed in Children With Neurologic Impairment: Associated Morbidity and Mortality

J Child Neurol. 2021 Aug;36(9):727-734. doi: 10.1177/08830738211000179. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


Background: Gastrostomy tube (G-tube) placement for children with neurologic impairment with dysphagia has been suggested for pneumonia prevention. However, prior studies demonstrated an association between G-tube placement and increased risk of pneumonia. We evaluate the association between timing of G-tube placement and death or severe pneumonia in children with neurologic impairment.

Methods: We included all children enrolled in California Children's Services between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2014, with neurologic impairment and 1 pneumonia hospitalization. Prior to analysis, children with new G-tubes and those without were 1:2 propensity score matched on sociodemographics, medical complexity, and severity of index hospitalization. We used a time-varying Cox proportional hazard model for subsequent death or composite outcome of death or severe pneumonia to compare those with new G-tubes vs those without, adjusting for covariates described above.

Results: A total of 2490 children met eligibility criteria, of whom 219 (9%) died and 789 (32%) had severe pneumonia. Compared to children without G-tubes, children with new G-tubes had decreased risk of death (hazard ratio [HR] 0.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.39-0.55) but increased risk of the composite outcome (HR 1.21, CI 1.14-1.27). Sensitivity analyses using varied time criteria for definitions of G-tube and outcome found that more recent G-tube placement had greater associated risk reduction for death but increased risk of severe pneumonia.

Conclusion: Recent G-tube placement is associated with reduced risk of death but increased risk of severe pneumonia. Decisions to place G-tubes for pulmonary indications in children with neurologic impairment should weigh the impact of severe pneumonia on quality of life.

Keywords: evidence-based medicine; feeding tube; neurologic impairment; pneumonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrostomy / instrumentation*
  • Gastrostomy / methods
  • Gastrostomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / adverse effects*
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / methods
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Nervous System Diseases / mortality*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult