Continuous versus intermittent bolus feeding for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease

Preterm and low birth weight infants are often unable to be fed orally because they cannot suck and swallow effectively. Therefore, they need to be fed via a tube placed into the stomach (intragastric). Tube feeding can be given by the intermittent bolus method, whereby milk is given over a short time (15 to 30 minutes), or by the continuous feeding method, by which milk is given over several hours. It is unclear which method is better for reducing reflux of milk into the oesophagus. We found no randomised controlled trials and therefore recommend that well-designed randomised trials be conducted to conclusively prove which method is more appropriate.

Authors' conclusions: 

We did not identify any randomised trials that evaluated the effects of continuous versus intermittent bolus intragastric tube feeding on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in preterm and low birth weight infants. Well-designed and adequately powered trials are needed.

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Background: 

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a particularly common condition in preterm and low birth weight infants. These infants are also more likely to have excessive regurgitation, as they do not have a fully developed antireflux mechanism. Preterm and low birth weight infants who are unable to suck oral feeds are required to be fed via an intragastric tube for varying lengths of time. Intragastric tube feeding can be delivered by the intermittent bolus or continuous feeding method. Use of continuous or intermittent bolus intragastric feeding may have a positive or negative effect on the incidence or severity of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.

Objectives: 

To determine whether continuous or intermittent bolus intragastric tube feeding reduces the number of episodes and the duration of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) in preterm and low birth weight infants.

We intended to perform subgroup analyses for gestational age; birth weight; age in days from birth at full enteral feeding via intragastric tube (breast vs bottle); frequency of intermittent bolus feed; and type of medication for treatment of GORD (only if medication prescribed and given similarly to both intervention groups).

Search strategy: 

We used the standard search strategy of the Cochrane Neonatal Group as described in The Cochrane Library (www.thecochranelibrary.com) to search for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2013, Issue 9), MEDLINE (1966 to September 2013), EMBASE (1980 to September 2013) and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (1982 to September 2013). We also searched previous reviews, including cross-references, abstracts and conference and symposia proceedings of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Pediatric Academic Societies (American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research and European Society for Paediatric Research) from 1990 to 2012.

Selection criteria: 

Published and unpublished RCTs and quasi-RCTs were eligible for inclusion in this review, as were cluster-randomised and cross-over randomised trials that compared the effects of continuous versus intermittent bolus intragastric tube feeding on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in preterm and low birth weight infants.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed study eligibility and quality.

Main results: 

We found no trials that met the inclusion criteria for this review.

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