Feeding tube before 50 can extend life

People with dysphagia, which is a difficulty in swallowing, may live up to two years longer if they have a feeding tube before the age of 50, a new study has found.

It’s estimated around 30% of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have dysphagia. Problems with swallowing are known to significantly lower life quality, affect mental health and raise the risk of dehydration, malnutrition, and aspiration of food particles that can cause lung infections and pneumonia.

Treatment includes inserting a feeding tube through the abdominal wall to give nutrition and hydration, and reduce the risk of lung infections.

Researchers studied the medical records of MS patients who had a feeding tube inserted in Sheffield hospitals between 2005 and 2017. They found that after a year, 81% of people were still alive, and more than half were still alive after two years.

People who had had the tube procedure before they were 50 survived longer, an average of more than two years, than with those who had it at later ages, who survived on average for another year and a half.

The researchers say that although more studies are needed, these findings “Will help inform clinicians and patients with MS making decisions regarding gastrostomy tube placement.”