Prospective Randomized Control Trial of Intermittent Versus Continuous Gastric Feeds for Critically Ill Trauma Patients

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Abstract

Background:

This study compared an intermittent feeding regimen (one-sixth of daily needs infused every 4 hours) with a continuous (drip) feeding regimen for critically ill trauma patients. There were two outcome variables: time to reach goal volume and the days on 100% of caloric needs via an enteral route in the first 10 days of the intensive care unit stay. Adverse events were also tallied.

Methods:

A prospective randomized trial was conducted in the trauma intensive care unit in a university Level I trauma center. A total of 164 trauma patients, 18 years of age and older were admitted to the trauma intensive care unit with a noninjured gastrointestinal tract and required more than 48 hours of mechanical ventilation. Patients were randomized to receive enteral nutrition via an intermittent feeding regimen versus a continuous feeding regimen. A single nutritionist calculated caloric and protein goals. A strict protocol was followed where hourly enteral intake, interruptions and their causes, diarrhea, and pneumonia were recorded, as well as standard guidelines for intolerance.

Results:

A total of 164 patients were randomized and 139 reached their calculated nutritional goal within 7 days. There were no statistical differences in complications of tube feeding. The patients intermittently fed reached the goal faster and by day 7 had a higher probability of being at goal than did the patients fed continuously (χ2 = 6.01, p = 0.01). Intermittent patients maintained 100% of goal for 4 of 10 days per patient (95% CI = 3.5–4.4) as compared with the drip arm goal for only 3 of 10 days per patient (95% CI = 2.7–3.6).

Conclusions:

Patients from both the intermittent and continuous feeding regimens reached the goal during the study period of 7 days but the intermittent regimen patients reached goal enteral calories earlier. The intermittent gastric regimen is logistically simple and has equivalent outcomes to a standard drip-feeding regimen.

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