Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meet PEG

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been having some difficulties with choking lately. It is mostly when taking my copious supplements, often when drinking, and sometimes eating.

My diet consists mostly of rice, vegetables and protein all finely chopped. I generally don't have difficulty when eating these meals. It's other foods -- pizza, burgers, salads, etc that I struggle with. Two things at play here, my tongue does not have the strength to move a lot of food around in my mouth -- so food gets stuck to the roof and in the sides. The second is the interactions between the epiglottis and hyoid bone in the larynx region.

When I swallow the epiglottis does not completely close off the airway, so food and liquid can sneak into the lungs. My throat is also smaller, so when the food does go down the right way it can get stuck.

With Bulbar onset ALS (first symptoms are mouth and throat) the biggest risk to long term survival is pneumonia. There are several types, the one we are concerned with occurs when food and excess liquids end up in the lungs. The body knows how to deal with this generally, but excessive exposure can lead to lung dysfunction.

The solution is a PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) more commonly known as the insertion of a feeding tube. I will be having this procedure done in the next few weeks. It is generally an outpatient procedure -- but I will spend a few days in the hospital as a precaution.

I watched a video on the procedure and care of the device. It is very straight forward and within a few months they will remove the tube and replace it with a port that promises to be unobtrusive.

I can still eat and drink after the procedure, but I will be able to take my supplements via this tube which will really minimize the effort, discomfort and risk that comes with trying to down my pile of pills. In addition to pills and water, food can be liquified and delivered via a small pump when desired.

This along with swallowing strategies like tilting my head forward will help me keep my weight and nutrition up.

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