Elder Abuse Attorneys Serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire
Certain conditions may present themselves in elderly patients that make it impossible for them to consume food on their own. In these circumstances, a medical professional may determine that a patient’s continued health and survival has become dependent upon using a feeding tube to provide the nutrients he or she cannot obtain on his or her own. While feeding tubes may be an essential option for patients that require them, they can also be dangerous when they are not handled or monitored properly.
What are Feeding Tubes?
A feeding tube is a device that transfers nutrition to a patient’s stomach or small intestine so that it can be absorbed and used by the patient. Feeding tubes might be temporary or permanent depending on the conditions that lead a medical professional to decide to use them. Feeding tubes are generally inserted through the nose and either transport essential nutrients to the stomach or small intestine. Sometimes in situations where long-term use is required, a feeding tube may be inserted through an incision in the abdomen where it is connected to the stomach or small intestine.
Studies Suggest Feeding Tubes Are Not Always Best
Some studies have shown that feeding tubes have little effect on prolonging life, but some family members often find they cannot bear seeing a loved one starve to death. Recent studies have shown that using a feeding tube in residents with advanced dementia might actually cause more suffering than it prevents. However, decision makers often opt to use these feeding tubes in an attempt to prevent death or suffering caused by aspiration pneumonia, dehydration or malnutrition.
Problems and Complications Caused by Feeding Tubes
Most of the problems caused by feeding tubes involve diarrhea or clogged feeding tubes. Residents with a feeding tubes are at risk of pulmonary aspiration. Aspiration occurs when food, saliva or stomach acid reflux from stomach contents is inhaled into the lungs. Sometimes sedatives are needed to restrain the resident. Injuries related to feeding tubes can occur as a result of:
- Improper Positioning of Feeding Tube: Improper tube placement can occur when the feeding tube is first inserted or it can occur because the feeding tube falls out of place during use. Either way, improper positioning of the feeding tube can cause serious injury and complications that include esophageal tears, choking hazards, and leakage or infection around the insertion site.
- Malabsorption of Nutrients: If a feeding tube is not properly managed during use, it can lead to malabsorption of essential nutrients a patient needs, which in turn can result in malnutrition. It is essential to ensure that a patient’s condition and nutrition are properly monitored in order to determine if there is a potential problem with nutrient absorption.
When these types of accidents occur with feeding tubes, several serious conditions can develop. Patients may begin to suffer from complications like dehydration, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea, infection, and other serious side effects that accompany these types of conditions. In situations where such side effects are not addressed, a patient’s health can be put in jeopardy.
When Might a Nursing Home be Liable for Feeding Tube Complications?
Nursing home staff should have protocol in place to help ensure that feeding tubes are properly positioned and functioning as needed. If they do not monitor the placement and use of a feeding tube, the tube can become clogged or cause complications that develop rapidly, such as those discussed above. These conditions and related side effects have the potential to lead to serious injury and possibly death.
If you believe your loved one has experienced injury or death as the result of feeding tube complications while in the care of a nursing home facility, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can begin investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. Contact our law offices today for a consultation where you can begin to find out if you, or your loved one are eligible for compensation related to feeding tube injuries or death.
We offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to help you understand your rights and the value of your case. Our personal injury law firm takes cases involving elder abuse and neglect. We offer legal service to clients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
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