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Survival and health care use after feeding tube placement in children with neurologic impairment

Nelson KE, Rosella LC, Mahant S, Cohen E, Guttmann A. Pediatrics. 2019; Jan 24 [Epub ahead of print].


Background and Objectives — Children with neurologic impairment (NI) often undergo feeding tube placement for undernutrition or aspiration. We evaluated survival and acute health care use after tube placement in this population.

Methods — This is a population-based exposure-crossover study for which we use linked administrative data from Ontario, Canada. We identified children aged 13 months to 17 years with a diagnosis of NI undergoing primary gastrostomy or gastrojejunostomy tube placement between 1993 and 2015. We determined survival time from procedure until date of death or last clinical encounter and calculated mean weekly rates of unplanned hospital days overall and for reflux-related diagnoses, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits. Rate ratios were estimated from negative binomial generalized estimating equation models adjusting for time and age.

Results — Two-year survival after feeding tube placement was 87.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 85.2%–89.4%) and 5-year survival was 75.8% (95% CI: 72.8%–78.4%). The adjusted rate ratio comparing weekly rates of unplanned hospital days during the 2 years after versus before tube placement was 0.92 (95% CI: 0.57–1.48). Similarly, rates of reflux-related hospital days, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits were unchanged. Unplanned hospital days were stable within subgroups, although rates across subgroups varied.

Conclusions — Mortality is high among children with NI after feeding tube placement. However, the stability of health care use before and after the procedure suggests that the high mortality may reflect underlying fragility rather than increased risk from nonoral feeding. Further research to inform risk stratification and prognostic accuracy is needed.

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