, Volume 166, Issue 8, pp 803-808
Date: 21 Nov 2006

Feeding disorders in ex-prematures: causes - response to therapy - long term outcome

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Feeding disorders in ex-prematures do exist and may constitute a major challenge to their families’ well being. A cases series of 86 ex-prematures with severe feeding disorders was analysed regarding co-morbidity, response to therapy and the long-term outcome after treatment. These children with a gestational age of <37 weeks had been referred for hospital rehabilitation because of severe feeding disorders, defined as tube feeding or average feeding times of more than 30 minutes. Behavioural therapy was the key element of the treatment. Ex-prematures accounted for 86/266 patients admitted for treatment of feeding disorders between 1995 and 2004. Whereas only 40.8% of these had cerebral palsy, 51.1% had a diagnosis of mental retardation and 87% had interaction problems. Response to treatment up to discharge was achieved in 61.6%. Univariat analyses showed that tube feeding at admission and swallowing difficulties were the best predictors of failure to respond to the intervention. Long-term follow-up data that were collected for 53 of the 86 children with similar initial response to therapy (64.2%) compared to children with no follow-up data (57.6%). Success of therapy after discharge was maintained in 94.1%; however, 25% of the children with normal BMI’s at discharge and sustained success of therapy fell below the 3rd BMI percentile. Cerebral palsy, mental retardation and interaction problems appear to be important risk factors for severe feeding disorders in ex-prematures. A therapeutic intervention based on behavioural therapy achieved sustained success in almost two thirds of the children.