Nutrition guidelines recommend enteral nutrition in the form of gastric feedings for critically ill children and acknowledge a lack of evidence describing an optimal method for providing these feedings.
To determine the state of the science regarding the efficacy of bolus (intermittent) or continuous gastric feedings to improve nutrition delivery in critically ill children receiving mechanical ventilation.
Five hundred seventy-nine abstracts met the inclusion criteria and were screened by 2 reviewers according to prespecified criteria. Full-text reviews were performed on 28 articles; 11 studies were selected for detailed analysis. Because of the small number of eligible studies, broader searches were conducted.
Only 5 studies with a collective enrollment of fewer than 200 children closely addressed the specific research question. These 5 studies did not report any similarity in feeding regimens, nor did they report nutritional outcomes. Two of the articles described findings from the same study population. Although 4 of the 5 studies randomized children to bolus versus continuous feedings, only 3 studies described attainment of nutrient delivery goals in both the intervention and the control groups; the remaining study did not report this outcome. The heterogeneity in methodology and outcomes among the 5 studies did not allow for a meta-analysis.
The dearth of evidence regarding best practices and outcomes related to bolus versus continuous gastric feedings in critically ill children receiving mechanical ventilation requires additional rigorous investigation.