Lack of Efficacy of Thickened Feeding as Treatment for Gastroesophageal Reflux

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The efficacy of thickened feedings for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux in infancy was evaluated. Fifty-two infants were examined with prolonged pH monitoring of the distal esophagus after feedings of apple juice or apple juice thickened with rice cereal. All infants had a minimum of three feedings of both thickened and unthickened juice. The recordings of distal esophageal pH were analyzed for the percent of time the pH was <4 in the first 2 hours after each feeding. The infants were maintained in the following positions after feeding: prone (n=29), prone-board with the head elevated 30 degrees from horizontal (n=29), supine (n=7), and unrestricted (n=21). We found no significant difference in the percent of time with reflux with thickened versus unthickened feedings except in those infants maintained in the 30-degree prone position. In the first 2 hours after eating thickened juice, infants maintained in this position had increased esophageal reflux time (P<0.006). Further analysis revealed that 33% of the infants had a greater than 30% increase in esophageal reflux time after thickened feedings. Our study suggests that the immediate effect of thickened feedings on gastroesophageal reflux in infants is unpredictable.