Study Finds Link Between Feeding Tubes and Bedsores

Monarch-Butterfly-Pair-On-Nectar-Feeding-Tube-9.JPGA new study suggests that previous beliefs regarding certain dementia patients’ use of feeding tubes are incorrect. Feeding tubes, the belief went, could rectify nutritional imbalances and therefore aid in the healing of pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores. Research has generally been inconclusive, but this new study appears to disprove the premise entirely.

Patients reviewed in the study who had bedsores when receiving the feeding tube showed no improvement, and patients who previously lacked bedsores before were more likely to develop them with the feeding tube. The study’s conclusions are important to nursing home residents, their families and loved ones, and those who advocate for their safety.

The study looked at hospital records for patients with advanced cognitive impairment, commonly known as dementia, who had a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube inserted, and were then returned to the nursing homes where they live. The purpose of the feeding tube is often to correct nutritional imbalances in the patients, who may suffer from eating disorders brought on by dementia. The study’s lead author has also said that nursing homes and hospitals, looking to cut expenses where possible, may view feeding tubes as a good investment, even if they are not strictly medically necessary. Using feeding tubes in residents suffering from dementia frees up staff members who might otherwise have had to feed those residents by hand.

The study’s findings indicate that not only does the use of feeding tubes not improve a patient’s recovery from bedsores, but that these devices may actually put patients more at risk for having bedsores. Nursing home residents who had no bedsores upon arriving at the hospital were 2.27 times more likely to get a bedsore after getting the feeding tube. Among residents who already had bedsores when they received their feeding tube, researchers found that the bedsores were less likely to heal.

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, are damaged areas of skin caused by continuous friction or pressure. They frequently form in places where the skin is close to bone, particularly joints like the hips or ankles. They often afflict people who are confined to a bed or wheelchair.

Poor nutrition, low blood pressure, and advanced age can worsen bedsores. People who cannot move on their own need to be turned frequently to prevent too much pressure on one area. Bedsores start with skin irritation that might be itchy, but without treatment they can lead to infection and even death. Many bedsores stem from nursing home neglect, when staff members fail to adequately monitor patients while they are in bed.

A major factor in the increased risk of bedsores in patients with feeding tubes is the use of physical or medical restraints. Researchers noted that many patients provided with feeding tubes in the hospital required physical restraint or sedation, both in order to insert the tube and to prevent a dementia-afflicted patient from removing it. This made the patient even more immobile, increasing their risk of developing or worsening bedsores.

Nursing homes have a duty to provide diligent care and a safe environment for their residents. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Family of Man Who Died from Bedsores Receives $3.2 Million Jury Award, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, May 8, 2012
Federal Government Launches Antipsychotic Medication Initiative to Protect Nursing Home Residents, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 29, 2012
Pressure Mounts to Reduce Use of Antipsychotics in Dementia Patients, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, September 27, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Monarch Butterfly Pair On Nectar Feeding Tube 9’ by Agape Yojimbo (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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