According to a recent study, gastric feeding tubes prescribed for patients who suffer from dementia may actually increase the risk of pressure ulcers, also called bed sores.
Many dementia patients eventually have a difficult time eating. Swallowing especially can be affected by the disease, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia. As a result, doctors frequently prescribed the insertion of gastric feeding tubes. The tube is inserted in a small incision that is made in a patient’s abdomen and that is how the patient receives nutrition.
Gastric feeding tubes cause many dementia patients to become agitated. As a result, it often becomes necessary to restrain and sedate them. With the patient now restrained in bed for the majority of time, the risk of bed sores greatly increases. The study revealed that 35.6 percent of patients, who did not initially have bed sores before a feeding tube was inserted, developed a stage 2 bed sore (or worse) with the feeding tube. Fewer than 20 percent of patients who did not have feeding tubes developed bed sores.
There are four stage classifications to bed sores. A stage 2 bed sore is an open sore which expands deep into the layers of the skin. At this stage, skin can become damaged beyond repair and could die. At stage 4, which is the worst, the damage works all the way into the bones and muscles, causing much damage to joints and tissues.
The study concluded that feeding tubes more than double the risk of a patient developing bed sores. The risk of stage 4 bed sores was more than triple the risks of those patients without feeding tubes.
The study also revealed an inconsistency in how doctors prescribe gastric feeding tubes. Some doctors prescribe feeding tubes to almost 45 percent of their patients, while other doctors only prescribed to four percent.
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