Reducing necrotizing enterocolitis in very low birth weight infants using quality-improvement methods

J Perinatol. 2014 Nov;34(11):850-7. doi: 10.1038/jp.2014.123. Epub 2014 Jul 10.


Objective: Owing to a rise in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC, stage ⩾ 2) among very low birth weight (VLBW, birth weight <1500 g) infants from 4% in 2005 to 2006 to 10% in 2007 to 2008, we developed and implemented quality improvement (QI) initiatives. The objective was to evaluate the impact of QI initiatives on NEC incidence in VLBW infants.

Study design: In September 2009, we developed an NEC QI multidisciplinary team that conducted literature reviews and reviewed practices from other institutions to develop a feeding protocol, which was implemented in December 2009. The team tracked intervention compliance and occurrence of NEC stage ⩾ 2. In May 2010, we reviewed our nasogastric tube practice and relevant literature to develop a second intervention that reduced nasogastric tube indwelling time. The infants were divided into three groups: baseline (January 2008 to Novovember 2009, n219), QI phase 1 (December 2009 to May 2010, n62) and QI phase 2 (June 2010 to November 2011, n170).

Result: The NEC incidence did not decrease after implementation of the feeding protocol in QI phase 1 (19.4%) but did decline significantly after changing nasogastric tube management in QI phase 2 (2.9%). Multivariable logistic regression analysis demonstrated a significant relationship between QI phase and the incidence of NEC.

Conclusion: QI initiatives were effective in decreasing NEC incidence in our high human milk-feeding NICU. Nasogastric tube bacterial contamination may have contributed to our peak in NEC incidence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Program Development
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*