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Early parenteral nutrition for preterm infants: perhaps more complicated than it first appears
  1. Mark John Johnson1,2
  1. 1 Department of Neonatal Medicine, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark John Johnson, Department of Neonatal Medicine, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, SO16 5YA, UK; m.johnson{at}

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Since its first neonatal application in an infant with small bowel atresia in 1968,1 parenteral nutrition (PN) has become a key tool in the management of preterm infants, and has likely contributed to the improvements in survival seen over the past few decades. Over the years, it has been established as a safe practice and been the subject of several consensus guidelines regarding its use, which advocate starting it early as a replacement for the placental nutrition that preterm infants have been denied.

A group of researchers from Imperial College present two observational studies using data from the National Neonatal Research Database, which question the idea that early PN is beneficial, comparing the outcomes of those given early PN straight after birth, with those who received it later. The first by Webbe et al 2 focuses on moderately preterm infants born between 30 and 33 weeks’ gestation, while the second by Uthaya et al 3 looks at very preterm infants born at <31 weeks’ gestation. In the moderate preterm infants, early PN was defined as PN given prior to day 7 of life, while in the very preterm infants it was the first 2 days of life. Both studies found that there was an increased rate of neonatal morbidities such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, late-onset sepsis and a need for major surgery. However, at the same time, there was improved survival in infants who received early PN.

Studies in adults have already established that early PN may be detrimental, and more recently the Pediatric Early vs Late …

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  • Correction notice This paper has been corrected since it was first published. There was an erroneous repeated line and this has been removed.

  • Funding MJJ is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) through the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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