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Gastrostomy and quality of life in children with intellectual disability: a qualitative study


Objective Children with intellectual disability and marked feeding difficulties may undergo gastrostomy insertion to assist with their nutritional and medication needs. Use has increased recently for younger children, and it is intended to provide long-term support. This study explored the perceived value of gastrostomy for the quality of life (QOL) of children with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Methods Twenty-one primary caregivers of children with intellectual disability aged 2–18 years participated in semistructured telephone interviews. Data were analysed using directed content analysis, and data were coded to existing QOL domains relevant to children with intellectual disability and their families.

Results Benefits in each of the child and family QOL domains were represented in the interview data. For children, the impacts of gastrostomy for the physical health domain were predominant, supplemented by experiences of value for emotional well-being, social interactions, leisure activities and independence. For families, gastrostomy was integrated into multiple aspects of QOL relating to family interactions, parenting, resources and supports, health and safety, and advocacy support for disability. Shortcomings related to difficulties with equipment and complications.

Conclusions Our comprehensive overview of the value of gastrostomy for children with intellectual disability and their families was classified within a QOL framework. Gastrostomy was mainly supportive over long time periods across many QOL domains. Findings will be of use to patient counselling and education and the development of family support resources.

  • gastroenterology
  • multidisciplinary team-care
  • neurodisability
  • qualitative research

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