Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does Thickening Baby Formula Reduce Apneas in Infants With GERD?

When infants are born premature, one of the problems they commonly experience is apnea of prematurity. This is when breathing stops for more than 15 seconds and/or is accompanied by decreased oxygen or slowed heart rate. Sometimes, these apneas can be caused by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) in preterm infants. GERD is a condition in which contents from the stomach flow back up to the esophagus.

Apneas related to GERD are often initially treated by dietary modifications. One such dietary modification includes thickening the milk of baby formula. However, no studies have evaluated the effectiveness of this treatment. In the current issue of Neonatology, researchers from Italy reported on a study of starch thickened preterm formula in 24 preterm infants with GERD-related apneas. This was compared with a non-thickened commercially available formula.

The study period was 6 hours, during which time each infant was fed twice. The acid level in the esophagus was measured and a machine was used to detect apneas. Results of the study did not show any difference in the number of apneas between the two formulas, although the thickened formula did significantly reduce the acid level in the esophagus. The researchers suggested that other methods be explored to reduce apneas in preterm infants.

Suggested Reading: The Preemie Primer: A Complete Guide for Parents of Premature Babies--from Birth through the Toddler Years and Beyond

Reference: Corvaglia L, Spizzichino M, Aceti A, Legnani E, Mariani E, Martini S, Battistini B, Faldella G. (2013). A thickened formula does not reduce apneas related to gastroesophageal reflux in preterm infants. Neonatology. 103(2):98-102.

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