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Handbook for Mortals : Tube Feeding (Fluids and Food)

Can you try artificial nutrition and hydration for a while, then stop?

If death is not expected in hours to days, you and your family may consider a time-limited trial of artificial nutrition (food) or hydration (liquid) to see if it improves your comfort, alertness, or energy. To give tube feedings for a short period of time, a tube is usually threaded through the nose into the stomach. For longer periods of tube feedings, tubes may be placed through the abdomen directly into the stomach. This is a surgical procedure performed by gastroenterologists or surgeons, depending on the patientís other medical problems. Intravenous (IV) catheters are usually placed in the veins of the arm or hand to give artificial hydration. If IVs are going to be used for nutrition as well as hydration, then larger IVs usually must be placed in the large veins of the arm, neck, chest, or groin.

You and your family should agree in advance with your doctor about what you hope to accomplish from trying tube feedings or IV fluid. You should also determine, in advance, how long to wait to see if you are getting any better before removing the tubes.

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