The theory and practice of nutritional support in the premature newborn has assumed increasing importance with survival of greater numbers of very immature infants. After birth, many do not tolerate full enteral feeding until gastrointestinal motor function has matured. During this process some will develop necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating failure of adaptation to postnatal life that may result in death, or severe complications. The feeding strategy that minimises the risk of NEC remains to be defined. In addition, promoting growth rates and nutrient accretion equivalent to those achieved during fetal development while optimising neurodevelopmental and long term health outcomes represents an important challenge for neonatologists. This review will focus on the problems associated with enteral nutrition, the requirement for parenteral nutrition, and the long term consequences of early nutritional interventions, underlining the need for prolonged follow up in assessing the potential benefits of different approaches to feeding.
- NEC, necrotising enterocolitis
- PN, parenteral nutrition
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Conflicts of interest: none declared.
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