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Frakaloss G. Burke G. Sanders MR.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, USA.
BACKGROUND: Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is associated with failure to thrive in term infants with severe GER; however, this association has not been shown in premature infants. A retrospective case-control study of growth velocities, caloric intake, and length of hospital stay in premature infants with GER was conducted to determine the impact of GER on their growth. METHODS: Twenty-three patients with clinically significant GER were identified from a database containing records for all infants admitted to the University of Connecticut Health Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Patients and control subjects (n = 23) were matched for gestational age, birth weight, gender, and severity of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Each infant's average weekly weight gain and average weekly caloric intake were calculated, using daily bedside nursing flow sheets. Comparisons were also made of the number of days it took each infant to achieve full oral feedings, number of days from full oral feedings to discharge, and length of hospital stay. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between patients and control subjects for each week in average weekly weight gain, caloric intake, grams gained per calorie given, or weekly increments gained in length and head circumference. There were, however, significant differences in time required to achieve full oral feedings (32 +/- 13 days versus 19 +/- 12 days; p < 0.0008) and length of hospital stay (99 +/- 27 days versus 70 +/- 31 days; p < 0.002) as well as postmenstrual age (PMA) at discharge (43 +/- 3 weeks versus 39 +/- 3 weeks, p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: GER did not have a significant impact on caloric intake, effective use of calories, or growth velocities in the study population. It is more likely that the constant monitoring of weight gain and caloric intake while in the intensive care environment protects against the failure to thrive often seen in older infants with GER. Premature infants with GER had a significantly increased length of hospital stay. More aggressive medical management and consideration of alternative feeding strategies may help facilitate discharge for premature infants diagnosed with GER.