Clinicians frequently care for patients in whom long-term enteral tube feeding is being considered. The substantial increase in the use of endoscopically placed tubes for long-term feeding reflects the aging population, advances in medicine and technology, and inadequate advance care planning. Physicians should address advance care planning with all patients at the earliest opportunity. Prospective randomized trials measuring clinical outcomes for patients receiving long-term tube feeding are understandably limited. In addition, confusion regarding medical and ethical guidelines for long-term tube feeding often exists among clinicians, patients, and surrogate decision makers. Therefore, we discuss the physiology and clinical tolerance of limited oral nutritional intake, the prevalence of and indications for long-term tube feeding, the endoscopic procedures and their complications, the reported medical and quality-of-life outcomes, and the critical importance of advance care planning. We present our multidisciplinary approach that combines medical, nutritional, and ethical principles for the care of these patients.
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