Prospective randomized control trial of intermittent versus continuous gastric feeds for critically ill trauma patients

Jana B.A. MacLeod, Jennifer Lefton, Doug Houghton, Christina Roland, James Doherty, Stephen M. Cohn, Erik S. Barquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: This study compared an intermittent feeding regimen (one-sixth of daily needs infused every 4 hours) with a continuous (drip) feeding regimen for critically ill trauma patients. There were two outcome variables: time to reach goal volume and the days on 100% of caloric needs via an enteral route in the first 10 days of the intensive care unit stay. Adverse events were also tallied. METHODS: A prospective randomized trial was conducted in the trauma intensive care unit in a university Level I trauma center. A total of 164 trauma patients, 18 years of age and older were admitted to the trauma intensive care unit with a noninjured gastrointestinal tract and required more than 48 hours of mechanical ventilation. Patients were randomized to receive enteral nutrition via an intermittent feeding regimen versus a continuous feeding regimen. A single nutritionist calculated caloric and protein goals. A strict protocol was followed where hourly enteral intake, interruptions and their causes, diarrhea, and pneumonia were recorded, as well as standard guidelines for intolerance. RESULTS: A total of 164 patients were randomized and 139 reached their calculated nutritional goal within 7 days. There were no statistical differences in complications of tube feeding. The patients intermittently fed reached the goal faster and by day 7 had a higher probability of being at goal than did the patients fed continuously (χ = 6.01, p = 0.01). Intermittent patients maintained 100% of goal for 4 of 10 days per patient (95% CI = 3.5-4.4) as compared with the drip arm goal for only 3 of 10 days per patient (95% CI = 2.7-3.6). CONCLUSIONS: Patients from both the intermittent and continuous feeding regimens reached the goal during the study period of 7 days but the intermittent regimen patients reached goal enteral calories earlier. The intermittent gastric regimen is logistically simple and has equivalent outcomes to a standard drip-feeding regimen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-61
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Critical illness
  • Enteral feeding
  • Human
  • Nutrition
  • Outcome
  • Randomized prospective clinical trial
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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