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09-11-2008 - A New Technique For Feeding Critically Ill Animals

How do you adequately nourish a critically ill animal that is nauseous and vomiting?

Abdominal radiograph demonstrating NJ tube. The tube can be seen traversing the stomach, duodenum, and proximal jejunum.

How do you adequately nourish a critically ill animal that is nauseous and vomiting?  According to Dr. Matt Beal, a specialist in emergency and critical care medicine, “We know that early enteral nutritional support will improve the outcome of dogs and cats with critical illness, yet feeding into the stomach is often not well tolerated.”

There’s the traditional option of intravenous (IV) total parenteral nutrition (TPN), but, Beal says, “There’s good evidence that feeding naturally into the gastrointestinal system is better than IV feeding.”

Beal has solved this problem by developing a minimally invasive technique for passing a feeding tube from the animal’s nose through the esophagus, past the stomach and duodenum, all the way into the jejunum. 

It takes 7-30 minutes to place the nasojejunal (NJ) tube, and, Beal says, “at the VTH, this is now our standard of care in the management of patients with pancreatitis and other critical illness where the animal is intolerant of gastric feeding.” 

Previous methods for placing an NJ tube were surgical, invasive, and have been associated with severe complications, according to Beal.  His technique, which uses fluoroscopic guidance, falls into the realm of interventional radiology (IR). 

This is just one of many IR techniques developed and regularly performed at MSU to treat animals’ problems in a minimally invasive fashion.  “We are one of only two programs of this kind in the world,” Beal adds. 

For more information on interventional radiology at MSU, check out the website for the MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and click on “Interventional Radiology.”  Or contact Dr. Beal by calling 517-353-5420 or via email at .

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