Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) – a long-term follow-up study in head and neck cancer patients


Ylva Tiblom Ehrsson, Department of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, Karolinska Hospital, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden (e-mail:


Many patients with head and neck cancer experience problems related to swallowing. A retrospective study of 156 consecutive patients who received a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) at a teaching hospital is presented. The results showed that 42% had complications. Fatal complications were seen in connection with PEG tube placement, but severe and minor complications could occur much later. The method of PEG tube insertion did not affect the complication rates. The spectrum of observed complications is different to that reported earlier, suggesting that the learning curve of surgeons under training could have influenced the outcome. It may be concluded that for a very sick patient a theoretically easy surgical procedure could turn into a potentially dangerous operation. It is important to select suitable candidates for a PEG. Head and neck cancer patients with a PEG need special attention in connection with the PEG tube placement and also in a long perspective, e.g. by follow-up at a nurse-led outpatient clinic.