Aim: Prone posture is often recommended for symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux in young infants, but prone positioning has been associated with sudden infant death. The aim of this study was thus to establish the optimal alternative posture for reducing reflux.
Methods: 24 infants (< 5 months) with symptomatic gastro-oesophageal reflux were studied prospectively with 48 h pH monitoring. They were randomly assigned to one of the 24 permutations of the four positions (supine, prone, right, left). During the first 24 hours the infant was held horizontally, and then the permutation was repeated at 30 degrees head elevation, giving a total of eight study segments for each infant. Data were edited to remove all time when the infants were not in the prescribed positions. Results were evaluated using analysis of covariance.
Results: Gastro-oesophageal reflux expressed as reflux index (mean % (SEM)) was significantly less in the prone and left lateral positions (6.72 (1.06) and 7.69 (1.03) respectively) than in the supine and right lateral positions (15.33 (2.33) and 12.02 (1.38); p < 0.001). Head elevation did not affect any variables significantly.
Conclusions: Head elevation may not always be of clinical value. The left lateral position is a suitable alternative to prone for the postural management of infants with symptomatic gastro-oesophageal reflux.