Objective: To evaluate the tolerance of rapid advancement of enteral feeds in VLBW babies.
Setting: Tertiary teaching hospital.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Methods: All stable neonates with birth weight less than 1250 grams were included in the study. The primary outcome variable was the time taken to achieve full enteral feeds (defined as 180 ml/kg/day). The secondary outcome variables were incidence of Necrotizing enterocolitis (NNEC) and incidence of apnea. At 48 hours, the infants were randomized into the slow advancement group (enteral feeds advanced by increments of 15 ml/kg/day) or fast advancement group (enteral feeds advanced by increments of 30 ml/kg/day). The monitoring during feeding included daily weight record, two hourly abdominal girth charting, gastric aspirates, apnea, time taken to reach full enteral feedings and for NNEC.
Results: There were 53 infants who were enrolled for the study (27 in the fast advancement group and 26 in the slow advancement group). In the fast advancement group, 20 percent completed the trial; whereas 14 (53.8 percent;) in the slow advancement group completed the study. The two groups were comparable for birth weights, gestational age, sex, intrauterine growth status, Apgar and CRIB scores. The infants in the fast group reached full enteral intake of 180 ml/kg/day significantly earlier (10 +/- 1.8 days) than in the slow group (14.8 +/- 1.5 days). The two groups were comparable for episodes of feed intolerance, apnea, NNEC. Infants in the fast group regained birth weight significantly earlier (median 18 days) than in the slow advancement group (median 23 days).
Conclusions: Stable VLBW neonates can tolerate rapid advancements of enteral feeding without increased risk of adverse effects.