Background: Enteral nutrition therapy via nasogastric tube can be administered through continuous or intermittent feeding methods for critically ill patients. However, there has not been existing consensus on the superiority of either method for mechanically ventilated patients due to insufficient evidence comparing the effectiveness of the two methods. The present study aimed to compare the impact of continuous versus intermittent feeding methods on gastrointestinal intolerance in mechanically ventilated patients.
Methods: 41 mechanically ventilated patients in the intensive care unit, University Medical Center, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from 3/2017 to 5/2017 were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial. They were randomly and equally assigned to the two study groups and monitored for 4 consecutive days on incidence of gastrointestinal intolerance including high gastric residual volume, abdominal distention, diarrhea, and tube occlusion.
Results: There was statistically significant difference when comparing the gastric residual volumes between two groups with a median at 0.93ml (0.09-1.93) versus 11.61ml (7.61-17.28) (p < 0.001). The mean number of abdominal distention episodes in the continuous group was significantly lower than in the intermittent group (2.8 ± 2.66 versus 8.29 ± 5.1 episodes, respectively, p < 0.001). The diarrhea scores were not significantly different (p < 0.05) and there were no cases of occlusion recorded in the two groups.
Conclusions: Continuous feeding method offered less gastrointestinal intolerance than intermittent feeding method by reducing gastric residual volumes and limiting abdominal distention. The feeding method did not increase the risk of tube obstruction if it was flushed regularly.