Health Technology Assessment (May 2020)

Routine gastric residual volume measurement to guide enteral feeding in mechanically ventilated infants and children: the GASTRIC feasibility study

  • Lyvonne N Tume,
  • Kerry Woolfall,
  • Barbara Arch,
  • Louise Roper,
  • Elizabeth Deja,
  • Ashley P Jones,
  • Lynne Latten,
  • Nazima Pathan,
  • Helen Eccleson,
  • Helen Hickey,
  • Roger Parslow,
  • Jennifer Preston,
  • Anne Beissel,
  • Izabela Andrzejewska,
  • Chris Gale,
  • Frederic V Valla,
  • Jon Dorling

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 24, no. 23


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Background: The routine measurement of gastric residual volume to guide the initiation and delivery of enteral feeding is widespread in paediatric intensive care and neonatal units, but has little underlying evidence to support it. Objective: To answer the question: is a trial of no gastric residual volume measurement feasible in UK paediatric intensive care units and neonatal units? Design: A mixed-methods study involving five linked work packages in two parallel arms: neonatal units and paediatric intensive care units. Work package 1: a survey of units to establish current UK practice. Work package 2: qualitative interviews with health-care professionals and caregivers of children admitted to either setting. Work package 3: a modified two-round e-Delphi survey to investigate health-care professionals’ opinions on trial design issues and to obtain consensus on outcomes. Work package 4: examination of national databases to determine the potential eligible populations. Work package 5: two consensus meetings of health-care professionals and parents to review the data and agree consensus on outcomes that had not reached consensus in the e-Delphi study. Participants and setting: Parents of children with experience of ventilation and tube feeding in both neonatal units and paediatric intensive care units, and health-care professionals working in neonatal units and paediatric intensive care units. Results: Baseline surveys showed that the practice of gastric residual volume measurement was very common (96% in paediatric intensive care units and 65% in neonatal units). Ninety per cent of parents from both neonatal units and paediatric intensive care units supported a future trial, while highlighting concerns around possible delays in detecting complications. Health-care professionals also indicated that a trial was feasible, with 84% of staff willing to participate in a trial. Concerns expressed by junior nurses about the intervention arm of not measuring gastric residual volumes were addressed by developing a simple flow chart and education package. The trial design survey and e-Delphi study gained consensus on 12 paediatric intensive care unit and nine neonatal unit outcome measures, and identified acceptable inclusion and exclusion criteria. Given the differences in physiology, disease processes, environments, staffing and outcomes of interest, two different trials are required in the two settings. Database analyses subsequently showed that trials were feasible in both settings in terms of patient numbers. Of 16,222 children who met the inclusion criteria in paediatric intensive care units, 12,629 stayed for > 3 days. In neonatal units, 15,375 neonates < 32 weeks of age met the inclusion criteria. Finally, the two consensus meetings demonstrated ‘buy-in’ from the wider UK neonatal communities and paediatric intensive care units, and enabled us to discuss and vote on the outcomes that did not achieve consensus in the e-Delphi study. Conclusions and future work: Two separate UK trials (one in neonatal units and one in paediatric intensive care units) are feasible to conduct, but they cannot be combined as a result of differences in outcome measures and treatment protocols, reflecting the distinctness of the two specialties. Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42110505. Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 23. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.