Both gastric and duodenal feeding tubes are used to provide enteral nutrition. Most studies comparing the two methods have focused primarily on rates of complications, rather than on nutritional outcomes, and show no difference in complications between the two methods. It is not clear which feeding route provides the best nutritional outcomes. The primary purpose of this randomized clinical pilot study was to compare the percentage of recommended calories and protein received by patients with neurological disease being fed enterally via gastric or duodenal feeding tubes. Secondary aims were to compare the following between groups: physiological effects of feeding, reasons for delay in feeding, volume of feeding residual, number of feeding tubes replaced, cost of feeding, and number and types of complications.
A convenience sample of 25 neuro intensive care unit patients was randomly assigned to gastric or duodenal feeding. Enteral feeding was ordered by using a standardized prescription formula and provided by the nursing staff. Serum albumin and prealbumin levels were measured at baseline, day 3, and day 10. Nitrogen balance was measured on day 10. Enteral feeding data were collected daily.
No significant differences were found between gastric and duodenal groups in nutritional outcomes, including percentage of recommended calories and protein received, physiological effects of feeding, reasons for delay in feeding, feeding residual, number of feeding tubes replaced, cost of feeding, and number and types of complications. Neither group achieved mean recommended caloric or protein intake during the 10 days of the study. Further research is needed to address how recommended nutrients can be provided enterally in a more timely and complete manner in critically ill NICU patients.