Volume 2020, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0253-8253
  • EISSN: 2227-0426


Background: Enteral feeding has various advantages over parenteral feeding in critically ill patients. Acutely ill patients are at risk of developing enteral feeding intolerance. Prokinetic medications improve gastrointestinal mobility and enteral feed migration and absorption. Among the available prokinetic agents, erythromycin is the most potent. Erythromycin is used in different dosages and durations with variable efficacy. Intravenous erythromycin has an early and high rate of tachyphylaxis; hence, enteral route is preferred. Recently, the combination of prokinetic medications has been increasingly used because they accelerate the prokinetic action and decrease the adverse effects.

Aim: This study aimed to determine the optimal effective prokinetic dose and duration of administering enteral erythromycin in combination with metoclopramide in critically ill patients.

Patients and methods: This study has a prospective observation design. After obtaining permission from the medical research center of the institution, all patients in the surgical and trauma intensive care unit having enteral feed intolerance and those who were already on metoclopramide for 24 hour (h) were enrolled in the study. Patients’ demographic data, diagnosis, surgical intervention, disease severity scores, erythromycin dose, duration of administration, any adverse effects, factors affecting erythromycin response, and outcome were recorded. All patients received 125 mg syrup erythromycin twice daily through a nasogastric tube (NGT). The NGT was clamped for 2 h, and half amount of previous enteral feeds was resumed. If the patient did not tolerate the feeds, the erythromycin dose was increased every 24 h in the increment of 250, 500, and 1000 mg (Figure 1). Statistical significance was considered at <  0.05. A total of 313 patients were enrolled in the study. Majority of the patients were male, and the mean age was 45 years.

Results: Majority (48.2%) of the patients (96) with feed intolerance were post laparotomy. Ninety percent (284) of the patients responded to prokinetic erythromycin therapy, and 54% received lower dose (125 mg twice daily). In addition, 14% had diarrhea, and none of these patients tested positive for toxin or multidrug resistance bacteria. The mean duration of erythromycin therapy was 4.98 days. The most effective prokinetic dose of erythromycin was 125 mg twice daily ( = 0.001). Erythromycin was significantly effective in patients with multiple organ dysfunction and shock ( = 0.001). Patients with high disease severity index and multiple organ dysfunction had significantly higher mortality ( < 0.05). Patients not responding to erythromycin therapy also had a significant higher mortality ( = 0.001).

Conclusion: Post-laparotomy patients had high enteral feed intolerance. Enteral erythromycin in combination with metoclopramide was effective in low dose and was required for short duration. Patients who did not tolerate feeds despite increasing dose of erythromycin had higher mortality.


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