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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15;(2):CD005144. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005144.pub2.

Nutritional support for critically ill children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Intensive Care, University of Alberta and Stollery Children's Hospital, Office 3A3.07, 8440- 112 St, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2B7.

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Nutritional support in the critically ill child has not been well investigated and is a controversial topic within paediatric intensive care. There are no clear guidelines as to the best form or timing of nutrition in critically ill infants and children.


To assess the impact of enteral and total parenteral nutrition on clinically important outcomes for critically ill children.


We searched: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 1); Ovid MEDLINE (1966 to February 2007); Ovid EMBASE (1988 to February 2007); OVID Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews; ISI Web of Science - Science Citation Index Expanded (1965 to February 2007); WebSPIRS Biological Abstracts (1969 to February 2007); and WebSPIRS CAB Abstracts (1972 to February 2007). We also searched trial registries; reviewed reference lists of all potentially relevant studies; handsearched relevant conference proceedings; and contacted experts in the area and manufacturers of enteral and parenteral nutrition products. We did not limit the search by language or publication status.


We included studies if they were randomized controlled trials; involved paediatric patients, aged one day to 18 years of age, cared for in a paediatric intensive care unit setting (PICU) and received nutrition within the first seven days of admission; and reported data for at least one of the pre-specified outcomes (30-day or PICU mortality; length of stay in PICU or hospital; number of ventilator days; and morbid complications, such as nosocomial infections). We excluded studies if they only reported nutritional outcomes, quality of life assessments, or economic implications. Furthermore, other areas of paediatric nutrition, such as immunonutrition and different routes of delivering enteral nutrition, were not addressed in this review.


Two authors independently screened searches, applied inclusion criteria, and performed quality assessments. We resolved discrepancies through discussion and consensus. One author extracted data and a second checked data for accuracy and completeness.


Only one trial was identified as relevant. Seventy-seven children in intensive care with burns involving > 25% of the total body surface area were randomized to either enteral nutrition within 24 hours or after at least 48 hours. No statistically significant differences were observed for mortality, sepsis, ventilator days, length of stay, unexpected adverse events, resting energy expenditure, nitrogen balance, or albumin levels. The trial was assessed as of low methodological quality (based on the Jadad scale) with an unclear risk of bias.


There was only one randomized trial relevant to the review question. Research is urgently needed to identify best practices regarding the timing and forms of nutrition for critically ill infants and children.

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