Introduction Feeding patients undergoing radical treatment for head and neck cancer via a percutaneous endoscopically or radiologically placed/inserted gastrostomy (PEG, RIG) is common practice. PEG/RIG insertion is not entirely safe and complications may occur with long-term usage. We did a prospective audit of PEG/RIG related complications in patients having them placed prior to surgery for head and neck cancer.
Methods Community dietitians reviewed all patients with a gastrostomy placed prior to surgery or radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. They prospectively recorded morbidity and mortality between 2008–2014. In addition hospital databases and case notes were examined. Recorded morbidity included insertion site infection, leakage, over granulation, haemorrhage and buried bumper.
Results In the 206 patients there was one death within 30 days from placement, no deaths attributable to gastrostomy placement. One patient underwent a laparotomy for peritonitis. 95 minor complications occurred in 72 (35%) patients or 1:887 days of having a gastrostomy. The commonest complication was peristomal site infection occurring in 55 (27%) patients or 1:1531 days of having a gastrostomy, all of which settled with antibiotics. There was no buried bumpers or tumour implantation at the insertion site reported in the study. There was no procedure related 30 day mortality.
Conclusion We have shown a low rate of major complications (0.5%) and a relatively high minor complications rate (35%) of PEGs and RIGs in patients with head and neck cancer. Wound infection can be reduced by careful sterile technique, preoperative antibiotics, a 1 cm abdominal incision and avoiding tightness of the crossbar. We conclude that the use of PEG tubes is a safe method of delivering non-oral nutritional support for patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer.
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Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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