Ensuring optimal nutrition is vital in critically ill children and enteral feeding is the main route of delivery in intensive care. Feeding intolerance is the most commonly cited reason amongst pediatric intensive care unit healthcare professionals for stopping or withholding enteral nutrition, yet the definition for this remains inconsistent, nebulous, and entirely arbitrary. Not only does this pose problems clinically, but research in this field frequently uses feeding intolerance as an endpoint and the heterogeneity in this definition makes the comparison of studies difficult and meta-analysis impossible. We reviewed the use of, and definitions of, the term feed intolerance in pediatric intensive care research papers in the last 20 years. Gastric residual volume remains the most common factor used to define feed intolerance, despite the lack of evidence for this. Healthcare professionals would benefit from further education to improve their awareness of the limitations of the markers to define feeding intolerance, and the international PICU community needs to agree a consistent definition of this phenomenon to improve consistency in both practice and research.Conclusion: This paper will provide a narrative review of the definitions of, evidence for, and markers of feeding intolerance in critically ill children. What is Known?: • Feeding intolerance is a commonly cited reason amongst pediatric intensive care unit healthcare professionals for stopping or withholding enteral nutrition. • There is no agreed definition for feeding intolerance in critically ill children. What is New?: • This paper provides an up to date review of the definitions of, evidence for, and markers of feeding intolerance in critically ill children. • Despite no evidence, gastric residual volume continues to drive clinical bedside decisions about enteral feeding and feeding tolerance.
- Critical Illness/therapy
- Enteral Nutrition/adverse effects
- Food Intolerance/diagnosis
- Infant, Newborn
- Intensive Care Units, Pediatric