The clothes peg is a commonly used (at least in the summer) household object. Most of us have them, though we rarely regard them. They are so basic yet so useful, they have the ability of serving many functions in addition to it’s original one. It can be used to hang stuff, to hold, to fasten, endless number of uses. The peg is a simple object.
However if you talk to many people within the medical profession a PEG is something very different.
The Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) feedback tube is a safe and effective way to provide food, liquids and medications (when appropriate) directly into the stomach. The procedure is carried out for patients who are having difficulty swallowing. Irrespective of the age of the patient or their medical condition, the purpose of PEGs is to provide fluids and nutrition directly into the stomach.
I’ve been investigating the impact of medical treatment on patients that have had treatment for Oral and Maxillofacial Cancers. Part of this treatment may be the placement of a PEG feeding tube. So how does having a PEG feeding tube effect the Quality of Life (QoL) of this patient group. I undertook a study to find out, which was presented at conference (2008 British Assocaition of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Annual Conference, 22nd Annual Conference of the European Health Psychology Society and 6th International Head & Neck Quality of Life Workshop). An overview of this study is given below.
A Qualitative Investigation into the Impact of PEGs
Research by the Maxillofacial Department at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has shown an initial reduction in QoL due to the effects and demands of treatment as measured by the questionnaires. But patients want to add detail about specific areas of concern to themselves. One of these issues is the use of PEGs. The aim of this work was to explore the views of patients regarding the impact of having a PEG in-situ.
Ten patients were recruited prior to treatment for Head and Neck Cancer. They participated in a semi-structured interview and then completed the University of Washington and EORTC-C30 and HN35 QoL questionnaires to ensure comparability with previous studies. Follow-up data was collected at 1, 3, and 6 months post treatment.
Data revealed that those participants with a PEG in-situ had issues with clothing, activities, and sex, which were not apparent in those non-PEG participants. All rationalised the placement of the PEG, but expressed a desire for the PEG to be removed in order to more freely socialise, not be restricted in activity and start ‘feeling normal’. Communication with clinicians about the expected duration of use was described as poor. Patients needing new dentures prior to removal of the PEG reported feeling ‘abandoned’ by the hospital and ‘not confident in their dentists’.
This research shows the benefit of interview in adding flesh to the bones of questionnaires. It reveals adverse psychological effects of PEGs and need for better communication between patients and professionals. Investigation into oral rehabilitation is required.
So what next?
As noted, there needs to be better communication between patients and professionals. But the professionals need to be aware of the issues their patients may have. Therefore this work is currently being written up for publication in peer review journals, and other work is ongoing to investigate the knowledge base of professionals such as General Dental Practitioners that work outside of hospital settings, but that can still have a significant impact of the length of time this patient group require PEG feeding tubes.