To determine the impact of free water administration on clinical outcomes in medically complex patients, based on the hypothesis that patients receiving more thin liquids have worse outcomes related to increased risk of gastroesophageal reflux.
This was a retrospective chart review of children initiated on commercial blenderized tube feedings from 2010 to 2019. The percentage of gastrostomy intake that was a thin liquid was determined, with thin liquids including free water or thin formula based on the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI) framework. Patients were categorized into those receiving low volumes of thin liquids (“percent thin” ≤20%) and those receiving higher volumes (“percent thin” >20%). Emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and chest X-rays during the year after starting the blend were compared.
Forty-five patients age 12 months to 18.7 years (median 3.7 years) were included. Twenty patients (44%) were receiving a blend with an IDDSI-categorized thin consistency and 25 patients (56%) were receiving a thicker blend. In addition to the blend, patients received a median of 320 mL per day of water (range 0–1000 mL). Patients receiving <20% thin liquids were less likely to undergo chest X-rays during follow-up than patients receiving larger amounts of thin liquids (10% in the minimal thin group versus 48% in the greater thin group, P = 0.03). In a multivariable logistic regression, this relationship remained significant after controlling for underlying pulmonary disease, aspiration, method of feed administration (bolus or continuous feeds), fundoplication status, and oral intake status.
Our study demonstrates that patients on blenderized tube feeds receive widely variable amounts of added thin liquids, like water. The addition of water to tube feeds, while typically given for hydration, can modify feed viscosity and clinical outcomes, such as chest X-ray performance.