Whether you’re a feeding tube newbie or seasoned vet, chances are you already have or will eventually experience a leaky stoma site. In fact, questions about leaks are some of the most common ones we receive on our Facebook page. We know this can be a stressful and messy problem and we want to help you solve it once and for all.
First things first, there are two kinds of leaks. First, there is a leaking feeding tube. This is where formula or stomach contents leak out of the device itself. This is not what we are talking about today. We’ll cover this in another article. Second, there is leaking from the stoma site (the hole in the body through which the device is secured). This is the type of leakage we’re going to address.
There are many things that can contribute to stoma site leakage. Some of the most common are:
- Incorrectly-sized tube: A tube that is too big or too small can cause a lot of problems, including a leaky stoma site. Most commonly, stoma leakage will occur if the stoma length of the tube is too long. A properly-sized tube should have a space the thickness of a U.S. dime, in between the external bumper of the tube and the skin. If you suspect that an improperly-sized tube is the culprit, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to have the stoma formally measured. We make a stoma measuring device that is the best way to determine the appropriate tube size. Ask your clinician if they have one before your appointment. If not, request that they contact their Halyard Account Manager to obtain one.
- Low water level in the balloon: Did you know you’re supposed to check the water level in the balloon of your MIC-KEY* tube at least once a week? You can read how to do it here. If the water levels get low, the tube may become loose and cause formula and gastric fluids to leak out of the stoma. To some extent, loss of water overtime is normal; however, you will want to be sure that the balloon doesn’t have a small hole in it.
- Stomach Residual: If the stomach is too full of gastric fluid and formula/food, you may be getting too much nutrition at one time. If you are bolus feeding, consider switching to continuous feeds. If you are already continuous feeding, try decreasing the flow rate. Learn how to check your stomach residual here. Always discuss changes with your physician.
- Gas: Just like your stomach can be too full of food, it can also be too full of gas. If this is the case, you may need to release the air before or after feeding. This process is called venting and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
As mentioned above, these are just a few of the most common causes of stoma leakage and this list is not exhaustive. While we hope that some of these tips work for you, we always recommend discussing concerns and changes in routine with your healthcare provider.
Have you experienced issues with stoma leakage? Tell us how you resolved it on Facebook!