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Acta Paediatr. 2001 Aug;90(8):904-8.

A placebo-controlled trial of low-dose erythromycin to promote feed tolerance in preterm infants.

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Department of Newborn Care, Royal Hospital for Women and the School of Paediatrics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of erythromycin, a motilin agonist, in promoting enteral feed tolerance in preterm infants of < or = 32 wk gestation. Eligible infants were randomized to receive either low-dose (2.5 mg kg(-1) per dose 6 hourly) oral erythromycin ethylsuccinate or placebo for 10 d from the time of the first oral feed. The data from 22 erythromycin and 21 placebo infants were analysed. Birthweights (erythromycin 1,216 +/- 380 g, placebo 1,355 +/- 228 g, p = 0.25), gestation (erythromycin 28.6 +/- 2.2 wk, placebo 29.3 +/- 1.7 wk, p = 0.24) and other clinical variables were not different between the groups. Almost all infants were fed expressed breast milk. Erythromycin infants had significantly fewer episodes of large residual gastric aspirates (>30% of the previous 6 h worth of feeds) over 10 d (erythromycin 1.1 +/- 1.9, placebo 3.6 +/- 2.2 episodes, p = 0.0007). Infants in the erythromycin group achieved full oral feeds more quickly (6.0 +/- 2.3 vs 7.9 +/- 3.5 d, p = 0.04). There were no significant differences between the groups with regard to the number of days on total parenteral nutrition or to the time needed to regain birthweight. One enrolled infant from each group died of necrotizing enterocolitis.


Low-dose erythromycin promoted gastric emptying and feed tolerance in premature infants at a lower gestational age than previously reported. Increased exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics may not be free of risk. Further studies are recommended to assess its efficacy in premature infants with established feed intolerance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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