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Device-assisted feeding linked to poor neuro-development

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Newborns with poor growth and a congenital heart defect, and who required device-assisted feeding, are at increased risk of neuro-developmental delays at six and 12 months, according to US nurse researchers.

A study, led by the Pennsylvania University School of Nursing, investigated growth and development in the first year of life in infants who had undergone neonatal cardiac surgery in the first month after being born.

“The need for device-assisted supplemental feeding may serve as a predictor for the infant’s overall health status”

Barbara Medoff-Cooper

A total of 72 infants with a heart defect at six and 12 months were assessed.

Their development was evaluated at three, six, nine, and 12 months. In addition, feeding mode was recorded at discharge and at three months.

Of the 72 newborns with complex defect, 38 were exclusively orally fed at hospital discharge, whereas the other 34 required device-assisted feeding, combined with oral feeding.

The study found an association between growth parameters and early feeding mode with neurodevelopmental outcomes in the first year of life.

Growth measurements at three months of age proved to be significantly linked with in both cognitive and motor outcomes at both six and 12 months, suggesting a delay in neuro-development.

Newborns who required device-assisted feeding at hospital discharge and at three months of age were at the greatest risk of altered cognitive development, said the researchers.

The researchers said the inability to feed may be an indicator of immature feeding skills, which may suggest the need for early device-assisted feeding could be indicative of abnormal brain development.

Close monitoring of feeding skills and growth trajectories are necessary to identify those infants at increased risk for developmental delays, said the researchers.

Lead study author Barbara Medoff-Cooper, professor of paediatric nursing, said: “Infants requiring device-assisted feeding are unable to ingest the optimal calories needed for proper growth and development.

“The need for device-assisted supplemental feeding may serve as a predictor for the infant’s overall health status,” she said.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, was funded the US National Institute of Nursing Research.

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