Complications from a gastrostomy tube (GT) are frequently treated in the emergency department (ED). The goal of this study was to define and compare the pattern of GT problems in adults and children who presented to the emergency department. A retrospective chart study of patients with GT problems who presented to three Australian emergency departments over the course of two years was conducted. With 122 presentations, 70 GT patients (36 adults, 34 children) visited the ED for GT problems. When comparing adults to children, infections occurred in 21% vs 36%; P = 0.08; mechanical difficulties happened in 48% versus 52%; P = 0.86; vomiting occurred in 23% versus 8%; P = 0.02, and other issues occurred in 7% versus 5%; P = 0.7.

Within 28 days of the first GT implantation, 3 (8%) adults and 3 (9%) children presented to the emergency department, with the most common reason being tube dislodgement. GT problems encountered in the ED are mostly infectious and mechanical in origin, with adults vomiting more frequently than children.