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Feeding Practices and Effects on Transfusion-Associated Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Premature Neonates

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Background:

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions have been implicated in the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants. Some evidence exists to support that withholding feedings during transfusion reduces the risk of subsequent NEC development.

Purpose:

To review the most recent literature on this topic to determine best evidence-based practice regarding withholding or not withholding feedings during RBC transfusions.

Methods/Search Strategy:

Four databases were searched using keywords and MeSH terms including “necrotizing enterocolitis,” “NEC,” “NPO,” and “transfusion,” with specifications limiting the search to articles published in the last 10 years and limiting the population to neonates.

Findings:

Four studies did not demonstrate a reduction in transfusion-associated necrotizing enterocolitis (TANEC) with the implementation of feeding protocols during packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions. One study concluded that it could not confirm the benefit of withholding feeds during transfusion to reduce the risk of TANEC. A 2020 randomized controlled trial (RCT) found no difference in splanchnic oxygenation when enteral feeds are withheld, continued, or restricted during a PRBC transfusion. Holding feedings during PRBC transfusions did not result in adverse nutritional outcomes.

Implications for Practice:

To determine best evidence-based practice surrounding feeding protocols during RBC transfusions in very low-birth-weight and premature infants less than 37 weeks' gestation.

Implications for Research:

It is recommended that large, multicentered, adequately powered RCTs be conducted in this area. Individual institutions should standardize their practice to improve quality, safety, and patient outcomes.
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Keywords: anemia; blood transfusion; feeding; necrotizing enterocolitis; neonatal; nil per os; prematurity; very low-birth-weight infant

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2021

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