Background: The purpose of this study was to compare gastrointestinal tolerance to two enteral feeding protocols in critically ill patients.
Methods: A prospective, randomized controlled trial, that involved 96 consecutive patients expected to stay in the intensive care unit for > or =3 days and who had no contraindications to enteral feeding. The patients were randomized to either the current protocol (group I; gastric residual volume threshold, 150 mL, optional prokinetic) or proposed feeding protocol (group II; gastric residual volume threshold 250 mL, mandatory prokinetic). Gastrointestinal intolerance was recorded as episodes of high gastric residual volume, emesis, or diarrhea. The time to reach the goal rate of feeding and the percentage of nutritional requirements received during the study period were also recorded.
Results: Nineteen of 36 patients (19/36 = 0.53) in group I had one or more episodes of high gastric residual volume, compared with 10 of 44 patients (10/44 = 0.23) in group II (p < .005). There was no statistical difference between the two protocols with regards to emesis, diarrhea, or the total episodes of intolerance. The patients in group II reached their goal rates on average in 15 hours and received 76% of their nutritional requirements, compared with 22 hours and 70% in group I; however, these differences were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: The incidence of enteral feeding intolerance was reduced by using a gastric residual volume of 250 mL along with the mandatory use of prokinetics. The study showed a trend of improved enteral nutrition provision and reduced the time to reach the goal rate in group II. These improvements support the adoption of the proposed feeding protocol for critically ill patients.