The impact of a multifaceted quality improvement program on the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis in very low birth weight infants

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Pediatrics and Neonatology








enteral feeding osmolality; gastric residual management; necrotizing enterocolitis; structured feeding protocol; Very low birth weight Infants


Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a multifactorial gastrointestinal disease which mostly occurs in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. In addition to decreasing gestational age (GA) or birth weight (BW), artificial formula, delayed initiation or rapidly advanced feeding, severe anemia and systemic infections were associated with NEC. Several studies demonstrated that breast milk, standardized feeding advancement regimens and treatment of anemia are associated with less incidence of NEC. It is not known if including all these interventions in one multifaceted program will lead to significant reduction in NEC. Methods: The NICU team at The George Washington University Hospital created a multifaceted interdisciplinary quality improvement project to tackle several aspects of NEC prevention that addressed researched risk factors for NEC. The program was made of four quality improvement protocols: 1) Standardized Structured Feeding Program, 2) Feeding Intolerance Management Algorithm, 3) Enteral Osmolality Control Tool, and 4) Packed Red Blood Cell (RBC) Standardized Transfusion Protocol. This time-series, quasi experimental study design examined the differences in the incidence of NEC between infants with BW < 1500 g who were admitted to the GW Hospital NICU before and after the program implementation. Results: Data from 408 VLBW infants were included in the study. Although not statistically significant, there was a decreasing trend of NEC incidence in the post-implementation group (n = 199) compared to the pre-implementation group (n = 209), (3.5% vs. 5.3%, p = 0.88). The trend in the incidence of NEC declined further after the introduction of RBC transfusion protocol which was introduced ten month after starting the other elements of the program. Conclusion: Integration of the multifaceted quality improvement program may be associated with a decline in the occurrence of NEC. Further analysis with a larger sample size is required to determine if the changes seen are statistically significant.