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JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010 Jan-Feb;34(1):38-45. doi: 10.1177/0148607109348065. Epub 2009 Nov 10.

Challenges to optimal enteral nutrition in a multidisciplinary pediatric intensive care unit.

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Division of Critical Care, Department of Anesthesia, Department of Nursing, Division of Gastroenterology, and Nutrition and Clinical Research Program, Biostatistics Core, at Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



To describe nutrient intake in critically ill children, identify risk factors associated with avoidable interruptions to enteral nutrition (EN), and highlight opportunities to improve enteral nutrient delivery in a busy tertiary pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Design, Setting, and Measurements: Daily nutrient intake and factors responsible for avoidable interruptions to EN were recorded in patients admitted to a 29-bed medical and surgical PICU over 4 weeks. Clinical characteristics, time to reach caloric goal, and parenteral nutrition (PN) use were compared between patients with and without avoidable interruptions to EN.


Daily record of nutrient intake was obtained in 117 consecutive patients (median age, 7 years). Eighty (68%) patients received EN (20% postpyloric) for a total of 381 EN days (median, 2 days). Median time to EN initiation was less than 1 day. However, EN was subsequently interrupted in 24 (30%) patients at an average of 3.7 +/- 3.1 times per patient (range, 1-13), for a total of 88 episodes accounting for 1,483 hours of EN deprivation in this cohort. Of the 88 episodes of EN interruption, 51 (58%) were deemed as avoidable. Mechanically ventilated subjects were at the highest risk of EN interruptions. Avoidable EN interruption was associated with increased reliance on PN and impaired ability to reach caloric goal.


EN interruption is common and frequently avoidable in critically ill children. Knowledge of existing barriers to EN such as those identified in this study will allow appropriate interventions to optimize nutrition provision in the PICU.

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