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Pope's Tube Not Like Schiavo's

Doctors have inserted a feeding tube into Pope John Paul II because he’s having trouble swallowing, the Vatican says. But this feeding tube is different than the one that Terri Schiavo had.

Why are feeding tubes used?

Feeding tubes are used when a patient cannot swallow food safely or eat enough food for proper nourishment. The tubes deliver processed food directly to a patient's stomach or intestine.

Is the Pope getting the same treatment Terri Schiavo got?

No. The Vatican reports that the Pope is getting feeding assistance via a tube placed through the nose and into the stomach. This is called a nasogastric tube or NG tube. This is typically used temporarily. If the person does not recover the ability to eat, the NG tube can be left in or can be changed to a more permanent tube like Terri Schiavo had.

Terri Schiavo was fed with a gastronomy tube or G-tube. She had a special operation called a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, or PEG, which allows doctors to place a permanent feeding tube without having to perform an open operation on the abdomen, according to medical experts at MedicineNet.com, a WebMD company. First, an endoscope (a flexible, lighted instrument) is inserted into the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. This tube has a camera on the tip. Then a surgical opening into the stomach is made through the abdomen. The doctor uses the camera to guide the placement of the feeding tube.

Are there other kinds of feeding tubes?

Yes. Patients with stomach problems may be fed via a nasojejeunal tube (NJ tube) placed down the nose, through the stomach, and into the small intestine.

By Daniel J. DeNoon, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: National Institutes of Health. American Gastroenterological Association. MedicineNet.com,a WebMD company.