Objective: Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube placement is the preferred method for long-term enteral feeding of patients who are unable to take food by mouth. Despite the widespread acceptance of the procedure, no large-scale study of the long-term outcomes of patients receiving PEG tubes has been reported. The objective of this study was to determine the survival of patients in whom PEG tubes are placed.
Design: Retrospective cohort study using data obtained from two computerized databases.
Setting: Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Patients: Seven thousand three hundred sixty-nine patients who received a PEG tube in fiscal years 1990 through 1992.
Results: For the 7,369 patients, the mean age was 68.1 years and 98.6% were men. PEG tubes were most commonly places in patients with cerebrovascular disease (18.9%), other organic neurologic disease (28.6%), or head and neck cancer (15.7%). Although the complication rate of the procedure itself was low (4%), because of the severity of their underlying disease, 1,732 patients (23.5%) died during the hospitalization in which the PEG tube was placed. The median survival of the full cohort was 7.5 months.
Conclusions: This study documents the widespread placement of PEG tubes in severely ill patients, half of whom are in the terminal phase of their illness. Further study is needed to determine whether these patients benefit from PEG tube placement in terms of their quality of life and survival.