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Am J Crit Care. 2012 Mar;21(2):e33-40. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2012647.

Monitoring for intolerance to gastric tube feedings: a national survey.

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Saint Louis University School of Nursing, St Louis, Missouri, USA.



Confusion about how to assess for intolerance to feedings often results in unnecessary feeding interruptions.


To report findings from a national survey of methods used by critical care nurses to assess tolerance to gastric tube feedings and to discuss the findings in light of current enteral nutrition guidelines.


A paper-and-pencil survey was mailed to 1909 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. In addition, the same survey was posted online in a newsletter circulated to association members. Results from both surveys were pooled for data analysis.


A total of 2298 responses were obtained; most respondents reported using a combination of methods to assess tolerance to gastric tube feedings (listening for bowel sounds, measuring gastric residual volumes, observing for abdominal distention/discomfort and for nausea and vomiting). More than 97% of the nurses reported measuring gastric residual volumes; the most frequently cited threshold levels for interrupting feedings were 200 mL and 250 mL. About 25% of the nurses reported interrupting feedings for gastric residual volumes of 150 mL or less; only 12.6% of the respondents reported allowing gastric residual volumes of up to 500 mL before interrupting feedings.


Practice among the 2298 critical care nurses varied widely. Many of the survey respondents are practicing in ways that can unnecessarily diminish the delivery of calories to patients. Protocols based on current enteral nutrition guidelines must be developed and implemented in practice settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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