Esophagostomy tubes are an option when long term nutritional support is necessary. Patients requiring the placement of an
esophagostomy tube are those that are not able to take in food orally. In veterinary dentistry, this works out well for patients
with full or caudal mouth extractions, maxillary or mandibular fractures, oral or nasal neoplasia. Placement of the esophagostomy
tube is contraindicated in vomiting patients and in patients with esophageal disorders such as esophagitis, esophageal strictures,
megaesophagus, or those patients that have undergone esophageal surgery.
Choosing the Tube
The best tube for this procedure is the red rubber catheter. In the cat 12-16 fr. works best and in the dog 12-24 fr.
Placing the Esophagostomy Tube
Patients must be under general anesthesia for this procedure. It is best done right after the dental procedure is completed.
Place the patient in lateral recumbency.
Supplies needed are a large Kelly or Carmalt forcep, appropriate size red rubber catheter, Luer slip catheter plug, 1" tape,
non-absorbable suture material, scalpel blade, permanent marker, cast padding, needle holders, thumb forceps, clippers and
Clip the entire lateral cervical region from the ventral midline to near dorsal midline. Surgically prep the area.
Cut the distal rounded tip of the tube or widen the lumens of the side vents to facilitate the food administration and remove
the possibility of any food impaction in the tube. Measure the feeding tube by placing the tip at the 7th or 8th intercostal space. The other end should be marked with a permanent marker at the midcervical area where the tube will exit
Insert the Kelly or Carmalt forcep into the mouth and into the proximal cervical esophagus. Turn the tip of the forcep toward
the lateral aspect of the patient so that the instrument can be seen and palpated through the side of the neck.
Place 2 fingers on either side of the protruding forcep tip. Using a scalpel blade, make an incision just large enough for
the tip of the forcep to pass through and be opened large enough for the catheter to be grabbed by the forcep.
Once the catheter has been grabbed by the forcep, pull the catheter into the esophagus and out through the mouth. Then turn
the tip back into the esophagus and push it in as far as possible. With your finger on the catheter in the mouth, pull gently
on the same time at the other end of the catheter coming out of the incision. Once the catheter inside the esophagus unfolds
down along the esophagus, the external part of the catheter will flip to point towards the head. Pull the catheter until the
marked part of the tube is visible above the skin. Place the catheter plug in the end of the catheter.
Just above the marked area of the tube, swipe the catheter with clean gauze, and then wrap a piece of tape leaving wings on
either side. Suture each wing to the skin using a simple interrupted stitch. Apply a dab of triple antibiotic ointment at
the incision site.
Apply a light bandage placing the catheter along the dorsal neck area with the tip of the catheter pointing caudally. Use
cast padding as the first layer followed by vet wrap. Secure the catheter to the neck bandage using tape.
Feeding Through the Esophagostomy Tube
The large bore of these catheters allows the feeding of a gruel recovery diet. If you need to dilute with water, dilute the
food to the consistency of a soft pudding. Make sure the mixture has no lumps that can clog in the tube.
Calculate the amount of food needed using the standard enteral feeding calculation:
RER (resting energy requirement) = 30 x (body weight in kg) + 70
For patients <2kg or >45kg use this calculation
RER = 70 x body weight in kg
RER ÷ kcal/ml = ml of formula/day