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Effectiveness of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants: an overview of systematic reviews


Early enteral feeding is vital for the physical health of preterm infants. However, there is uncertainty regarding the effects of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants. Hence, we aimed to synthesise evidence from systematic reviews (SRs) to evaluate the effects of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants. We conducted a literature search in PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. SRs selection followed clear inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two reviewers reached a consensus for the inclusion of SRs. The certainty of evidence and the quality of reviews using the GRADE and AMSTAR tools, respectively. We included nine SRs in this review. The effectiveness of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants is mainly divided into six primary outcomes: increase the weight gain, reduce the incidence of feed intolerance, shorten the duration of full enteral feeding, reduce the length of hospital stay, reduce the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis, and decrease the mortality risk. The overall quality of the included SRs was high, whereas most of the evidence was of low or very low certainty. Our results show the impact of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants. Although the currently available data indicate that early enteral feeding may improve the health outcomes of preterm infants, additional clinical observation and investigation are required to evaluate the long-term health outcomes of preterm infants who receive early enteral feeding.

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This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (81601330). The funder contributed to define the research theme, be fully accountable for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the work, analyze the data and interpret the results.

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QL contributed to collate and analyze the data, draft and revise the manuscript according to the Cochrane Handbook. Adilaabudusalamu contributed to screen and collaborate on data analysis. JY contributed to analyze the data and interpret the results. YS contributed to define the research theme, analyze the data and interpret the results, revise the manuscript, and was responsible for the layout and use of funds. All the authors have read and approved the final manuscript and reported no declarations of interest.

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Correspondence to Yanwei Su.

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Liu, K., Abudusalamu, A., Yang, J. et al. Effectiveness of early enteral feeding on health outcomes in preterm infants: an overview of systematic reviews. Eur J Clin Nutr (2022).

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