The influence of intermittent positive pressure ventilation on gastro-oesophageal reflux in preterm infants is not known. In many neonatal units, however, concern that ventilation may increase gastro-oesophageal reflux (and therefore aspiration) leads to avoidance of enteral feeding during ventilation. We have therefore performed a crossover study of gastrooesophageal reflux by monitoring lower oesophageal pH in a group of nine enterally fed, very low birthweight infants both during assisted ventilation and normal breathing. All infants had less reflux during intermittent positive pressure ventilation (mean (SEM) reflux index 2.3 (0.6%)) than during normal breathing (mean (SEM) reflux index 6.1 (1.1%)). Assisted ventilation was associated with a significant reduction in the gastro-oesophageal pressure gradient, an effect which may be related to the use of positive and end expiratory pressure during ventilation. These data show that fear of gastro-oesophageal reflux should not preclude the use of enteral feeding in preterm infants receiving ventilation.
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