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Enteral nutrition is a form of nutrition which involves the administration of specialized medical foods directly into the patient's stomach or intestine. Enteral nutrition is used in patients who cannot eat orally. What are the types of enteral nutrition and how is food given to the gastrointestinal tract?


  1. Enteral nutrition - what is it?
  2. Enteral nutrition - for whom?
  3. Enteral Nutrition - Food Delivery Methods
  4. Enteral nutrition - where?
  5. Enteral nutrition - contraindications

Enteral nutrition - what is it?

Enteral nutrition is a separate form of patient nutrition, in which specialist medical food is delivered via an alternative access, i.e. a tube to a selected part of the gastrointestinal tract - the stomach or small intestine. This form of nutrition is intended for patients who, for various reasons, cannot eat orally (total enteral nutrition) or who are insufficient in this way (partial enteral nutrition).

A consequence of protein and energy deficiencies and micronutrients in patients who cannot eat traditionally are, among others, lowering immunity, worse treatment effects of their disease and longer hospitalization time. Enteral nutrition is therefore used to:

  • improve or maintain the proper nutritional status of the patient's body,
  • enable the body to develop,
  • prepare the patient for surgery,
  • optimize the patient's treatment, convalescence or rehabilitation.

For enteral nutrition, you can use mixtures of mixed foods prepared by the patient or his caregiver, or ready-made preparations prepared in laboratory conditions by specialized companies. Research shows that industrial diets are the most valuable because they contain all the nutrients, water, protein, electrolytes, trace elements necessary for life in the right amount and caloric value. Therefore, they can be adapted to the very individual nutritional needs of the patient.

Do you know that…

Enteral nutrition is not a "drip"!"Drip" is a common name for parenteral nutrition administered directly into the systemblood vessel. They are used when oral and enteral nutrition are not possible or sufficient.

Enteral nutrition - for whom?

Enteral nutrition as a method of nutrition is used in patients of all age groups (infants, children, young people, middle-aged people and the elderly) suffering from swallowing disorders, complete inability to swallow and / or obstruction upper digestive tract, especially in diseases such as:

  • Parkinson's disease,
  • Alzheimer's disease,
  • stroke,
  • cerebral palsy,
  • cystic fibrosis,
  • inflammatory bowel diseases (e.g. Crohn's disease),
  • oropharyngeal cancer,
  • laryngeal cancer,
  • stomach cancer,
  • chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer,
  • thermal and chemical burns of the larynx and esophagus,
  • in unconscious patients.

Enteral Nutrition - Food Delivery Methods

In enteral nutrition, specialized medical food is delivered to the patient's digestive system in two ways. In the case of short-term treatment - using a gavage (commonly known as a probe) inserted through the nose into the stomach, duodenum or intestine.

In turn, in the case of long-term treatment, surgical installation of a percutaneous nutritional fistula is recommended. One of the two types of fistulas is used for this purpose, and they are:

  • gastrostomy- classic or endoscopic (PEG) - the end of the tubing used for feeding is in the stomach;
  • microjejunostomii- the catheter is inserted through the skin into the small intestine.

In patients who are known to never be able to consume food by mouth, the nutritional fistula is lifelong. However, there are also patients who, after regaining the proper nutritional status, improving functioning and in the absence of contraindications, can return to total oral nutrition. Removal of fistulas and catheters is a short procedure that does not require hospitalization.

Enteral nutrition - where?

Enteral nutrition is used in patients of various conditions - both more or less active, and those in bed requiring constant care. Enteral nutrition can be provided in:

  • hospitals,
  • at the patient's home,
  • long-term care facilities (e.g. social welfare homes, care and treatment facilities),
  • hospice.

Enteral nutrition at homeis reimbursed by the National He alth Fund. The refund includescomprehensive nutritional care (including training for patients), as well as equipment and specialized nutritional mixtures. Currently, the home enteral nutrition program covers approximately 6,000 patients in Poland.

Enteral nutrition - contraindications

Enteral nutrition is not used in patients:

  • with multi-level obstruction - e.g. in cancer,
  • with massive ascites,
  • with radiation enteritis,
  • with intestinal failure manifested by malabsorption,
  • in shock,
  • refusing to consent to enteral nutritional therapy.

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