Gastroesophageal reflux and the premature infant

J Pediatr Surg. 1986 Jul;21(7):583-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(86)80410-9.


Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a well-recognized problem in infants and children. Only scant mention of the premature infant with GER can be found in the literature. Of 760 preterm infants admitted to the NICU between 1980 and 1984, 22 had documented GER. These infants all underwent medical management including upright positioning, small frequent feeds, and often, nasojejunal feedings. Seventeen babies did not respond to medical management and underwent surgical therapy to control the reflux. Of the 17 babies requiring fundoplication, 15 had been initially intubated for treatment of respiratory distress syndrome. Eight of these 15 were extubated in less than 25 days and were improving until they exhibited sudden episodes of deteriorating pulmonary status requiring reintubation. The other seven intubated patients developed striking bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in the first month and required prolonged ventilatory support. Pulmonary deterioration, failure to grow, and refusal to eat became the herald of GER in these infants. Fundoplication dramatically improved the pulmonary status in all but one infant. Three late deaths can be attributed to cor pulmonale and pulmonary failure. BPD was striking predisposing factor for severe GER in these premature infants. In the total premature population without BDP only 8 of 684 (1.2%) had GER with five responding to medical management and three others undergoing fundoplication for apnea-bradycardia spells. Fourteen of the 76 infants with BPD (18.4%) had significant GER and all required surgical management for control of symptoms. Premature infants who develop deteriorating pulmonary function, poor growth, and/or refusal to eat should be evaluated for GER.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia / diagnosis
  • Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Esophagus / surgery
  • Gastric Fundus / surgery
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Gastrostomy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / complications
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / therapy
  • Posture
  • Respiration, Artificial