Tube dependency as a result of prematurity

Pahsini, K. *, Marinschek, S., Khan, Z., Urlesberger, B., Scheer, Peter J., Dunitz-Scheer, M. | JNPM 2018;

BACKGROUND: Enteral nutrition support (ENS) is a standard of care in all NICUs. As a result of long-term ENS, tube dependency can develop. Tube dependency is an inability to make the transition from tube to oral feeds despite the absence of medical reasons for ENS and might lead to symptoms like oral aversion and food refusal. This study aims to evaluate the prevalence of prematurity in a large cohort of tube dependent children.
METHODS: Prospectively collected data on tube dependent children who participated in a program based on the “Graz Model of tube weaning” from January 2009 to December 2015 was analysed quantitatively.
RESULTS:The study cohort consisted of 711 tube dependent children. Using ICD-10 classification, 378 children (53.2%) were born prematurely, with 103 extremely preterm infants (EPI; including children <29 weeks of gestational age and 275 preterm infants (PI; between 29 and 36+6 weeks of gestational age). More than half (55.4%) of all included patients were female, 51.8% were tube fed via a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG-) tube, 45.8% had a nasogastric (NG-) tube and 2.4% were tube fed via Jejunal (J-) tube. 66% of all EPI and 63.3% of all PI were tube fed since birth. 83.5% of all EPI had no additional diagnoses beyond their extreme prematurity. No differences in tube weaning outcomes between preterm and full-term infants were shown. CONCLUSION: Prematurity, especially extreme prematurity, is associated with an increased risk for development of tube dependency. Preventive measures for this specific group of children should be considered.

*Corresponding Author: 

Dr. Karoline Pahsini, Medical University of Graz, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Division of General Pediatrics, Auenbruggerplatz 34/2, 8010 Graz, Austria. Tel.: +43 316 385 30037; Fax: +43 316 385 13754; E-mail: