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J Burn Care Rehabil. 2002 Nov-Dec;23(6):401-15.

The 2002 Clinical Research Award. An evaluation of the safety of early vs delayed enteral support and effects on clinical, nutritional, and endocrine outcomes after severe burns.

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Shriners Hospitals for Children, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, USA.


Early enteral support is believed to improve gastrointestinal, immunological, nutritional, and metabolic responses to critical injury; however, this premise is in need of further substantiation by definitive data. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine the effectiveness and safety of early enteral feeding in pediatric patients who had burns in excess of 25% total body surface area. Seventy-seven patients with a mean percent total body surface area burn of 52.5 +/- 2.3 (range 26-91), percent full thickness injury of 44.7 +/- 2.8 (range 0-90), and age ranging from 3.1 to 18.4 (mean 9.3 +/- 0.5) were randomized to two groups: early (feeding within 24 hours of injury) vs control (feeding delayed at least 48 hours postburn). Nutrient intake was measured daily, indirect calorimetry was performed biweekly, and blood and urine samples were obtained for the assay of cortisol, glucagon, insulin, gastrin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, triiodothyronine, tetraiodothyronine, albumin, transferrin, prealbumin, retinol-binding protein, glucose, nitrogen balance, and 3-methylhistidine throughout the study period. Three protocol violations occurred, and two patients were transferred to another hospital; these patients were excluded from the study. No patient in either group experienced tube feeding aspiration. No differences were evident in infection, diarrhea, hospital length of stay, or mortality outcomes. A higher incidence of reportable adverse events coincided with early feeding (22 vs 8%), but this was not statistically significant. The delayed feeding group demonstrated a significant caloric deficit during postburn week (PBW) 1 (P <.0001) and PBW2 (P =.0022). Serum insulin (P =.0004) and triiodothyronine (P =.0162) were higher in the early fed group during PBW1. A decrease in 3-methylhistidine output (suggesting a decrease in protein breakdown) was also evident during PBW1 (P =.0138). No other significant trends in study outcome variables were noted. In conclusion, provision of enteral nutrients shortly after burn injury reduces caloric deficits and may stimulate insulin secretion and protein retention during the early phase postburn. These data, however, do not necessarily reaffirm the safety of early enteral feeding, nor do they associate earlier feeding with a direct improvement in endocrine status or a reduction in morbidity, mortality, hypermetabolism, or hospital stay. Future studies are needed to establish precise feeding implementation times that maximize clinical benefit while minimizing morbidity in the critically injured burn patient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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