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Journal of Pediatrics

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To compare healthcare use and parent health-related quality of life (HRQL) in 3 groups of infants whose neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) discharge was delayed by oral feedings.

Study design

This was a prospective, single-center cohort of infants in the NICU from September 2018 to March 2020. After enrollment, weekly chart review determined eligibility for home nasogastric (NG) feeds based on predetermined criteria. Actual discharge feeding decisions were at clinical discretion. At 3 months’ postdischarge, we compared acute healthcare use and parental HRQL, measured by the PedsQL Family Impact Module, among infants who were NG eligible but discharged with all oral feeds, discharged with NG feeds, and discharged with gastrostomy (G) tubes. We calculated NICU days saved by home NG discharges.


Among 180 infants, 80 were orally fed, 35 used NG, and 65 used G tubes. Compared with infants who had NG-tube feedings, infants who had G-tube feedings had more gastrointestinal or tube-related readmissions and emergency encounters (unadjusted OR 3.97, 95% CI 1.3-12.7, P = .02), and orally-fed infants showed no difference in use (unadjusted OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.1-1.7, P = .225). Multivariable adjustment did not change these comparisons. Parent HRQL at 3 months did not differ between groups. Infants discharged home with NG tubes saved 1574 NICU days.


NICU discharge with NG feeds is associated with reduced NICU stay without increased postdischarge healthcare use or decreased parent HRQL, whereas G-tube feeding was associated with increased postdischarge healthcare use.


Accepted version. Journal of Pediatrics, Vol. 234 (July 2021): 38-45.e2. DOI. © 2021 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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