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Exclusive Human Milk Diets and the Reduction of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Adv Neonatal Care. 2024 Jul 10. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000001183. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is common in preterm infants, especially infants less than 32 weeks gestation. Mortality from NEC is 7% and occurs in 1 out of 1000 preterm infants. Studies have shown the efficacy of an exclusive milk from mother diet in decreasing rates of NEC and associated mortality.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the effectiveness of an existing exclusive human milk diet (EHMD) protocol on the incidence of NEC in extremely premature infants. EHMD, for the purposes of this project is defined as breast milk of mother, with or without human milk-based fortifier.

METHODS: A single-center retrospective quasi-experimental study. The sample included 201 infants born less than 32 weeks gestation, weighing less than 1250 grams, small for gestational age (SGA) and with low Apgar scores. Outcomes measured included incidences of NEC, mortality, and co-morbidities in infants pre- and postinitiation of an EHMD protocol.

RESULTS: Just 4.8% of the EHMD group had a NEC diagnosis compared to 10.5% of the bovine-based (BOV) group. There was a 1% mortality rate of the EHMD group as compared to 6% in the BOV group. The EHMD group had a statistically significant greater weight gain during hospitalization as compared to infants fed BOV (P = < .05).

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE AND RESEARCH: Neonatal intensive care units should consider EHMDs for use in this infant population. Future research is needed to support dissemination of the use of EHMD as standard of practice.

PMID:38986129 | DOI:10.1097/ANC.0000000000001183

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