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Nursing Assessment of Guaiac-Positive and Occult Blood in Preterm Infant Stools

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Guaiac testing the stool of very low birth weight (VLBW; <1,500 g) preterm infants has been a standard of care for many neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and considered a diagnostic tool that could potentially provide early warning of gastrointestinal disturbances, feeding intolerance (FI), or necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Evidence to either support or eliminate testing stool for occult blood from standard care practices is lacking. Support to eliminate testing is often based on the knowledge that neonatal treatment interventions—such as gastric tube placement, intubation, and/or suctioning— may often result in occult blood in stools. However, there is also reasonable concern that occult blood may indicate a cascade of pathophysiological events, which may lead to FI and NEC, is in progress.

Feeding intolerance remains one of the most consistent reasons VLBW preterm infants experience poor weight gain and extended hospital stays. Every nursing assessment is strategic to the early identification of contributing factors to either the development of FI or NEC. Including low-cost, noninvasive diagnostic tools to augment the findings of the nursing assessment can only help guide health care providers in appropriate decision making related to the feeding plan.

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Keywords: bloody; feeding intolerance; guaiac positive; necrotizing enterocolitis; occult; preterm infant; stool; very low birth weight

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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