Erythromycin fails to improve feeding outcome in feeding-intolerant preterm infants

Adel A. ElHennawy, John W. Sparks, Debra Armentrout, Valerie Huseby, Carol Lynn Berseth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Scopus citations


    Objective: Approximately half of extremely low birth weight infants have feeding intolerance, which delays their achievement of full enteral feedings. Erythromycin, a motilin receptor agonist, triggers migrating motor complexes and accelerates gastric emptying in adults with feeding intolerance. Few studies have assessed the efficacy of this drug in preterm infants with established feeding intolerance. This study was designed to assess the efficacy of erythromycin in feeding-intolerant infants, as measured by gastric emptying, maturation of gastrointestinal motor patterns, and time to achieve full enteral feedings. Methods: Subjects were 27 preterm infants who were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and who did not achieve full enteral feeding volumes (150 mL/kg/day) within 8 days of the initiation of feedings. In a controlled, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial, infants received intragastric erythromycin or placebo for 8 days without crossover. At study entry, the authors recorded motor activity in the antrum and the duodenum during fasting, in response to intragastric erythromycin (1.5 mg/kg) or placebo, and in response to feeding. Gastric emptying at 20 minutes and transit time from duodenum to anus were determined. Each infant then received erythromycin or placebo for 8 days, and feeding characteristics were prospectively tracked. Results: Gastric emptying and characteristics of antroduodenal motor contractions were similar in the two groups, as were the transit times from duodenum to anus. Feeding outcomes were comparable in the two groups. Conclusion: Intragastric erythromycin does not improve feeding tolerance in preterm infants with established feeding intolerance because it fails to improve gastrointestinal function in the short or long term.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)281-286
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2003


    • Feeding intolerance
    • Gastric emptying
    • Intestinal motility
    • Preterm infants
    • Prokinetic

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
    • Gastroenterology


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