To evaluate whether serial Doppler measurements of superior mesenteric artery (SMA) blood flow velocity after the first enteral feed could predict early tolerance to enteral feeding in preterm infants.METHODS
When clinicians decided to start enteral feeds, Doppler ultrasound blood flow velocity in the SMA was determined before and after a test feed of 0.5 ml milk. The number of days taken for infants to tolerate full enteral feeding (150 ml/kg/day) was recorded.RESULTS
Fourteen infants (group 1) achieved full enteral feeding within seven days. Thirty infants (group 2) took 8–30 days. There was no difference in the preprandial time averaged mean velocity (TAMV) between the groups at a median age of 3 (2–30) days. In group 1, there was a significant increase in TAMV (p<0.01) above the preprandial level at 45 and 60 minutes, but this did not occur in group 2. An increase in TAMV by more than 17% at 60 minutes has a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 70% for the prediction of early tolerance to enteral feeds.CONCLUSIONS
There is a significant correlation between an increase in mean SMA blood flow velocity and early tolerance of enteral feeding. Doppler measurements of SMA blood flow velocity may be useful for deciding when to feed high risk preterm infants.