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Metoclopramide, thickened feedings, and positioning for gastro-oesophageal reflux in children under two years.

BACKGROUND: Gastro-esophageal reflux (GER) is the refluxing of gastric contents into the esophagus. Fifty per cent of all infants 0 to 3 months regurgitate at least once a day. This drops to 5% once infants are 10 to 12 months old. Three per cent of parents of 10 to 12 month old infants view this as a problem.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effectiveness of thickened feeds, positioning, and metoclopramide as compared to placebo in improving the outcome of GER in developmentally normal infants aged one month to two years.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2003), MEDLINE (January 1966 to 23 January 2003), EMBASE (January 1985 to 27 January 2003), and reference lists of articles.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised studies (parallel or cross over) which evaluated thickened feeds, positional alternations or metoclopramide for the treatment of GER in children between the age of one month and two years who were developmentally normal.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: All three reviewers independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. Study authors were contacted for additional information. Adverse effects information was collected from the trials.

MAIN RESULTS: Twenty trials involving 771 children met the inclusion criteria: eight dealt with thickened feeds, five with positioning, and seven with metoclopramide. Few comparisons could be made, and so summary measures were often made with two or three studies. Thickened feeds reduce the regurgitation severity score (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.94;95% confidence interval -1.35 to -0.52), as well as the frequency of emesis (SMD -0.91; confidence interval -1.22 to -0.61). The reflux index was not reduced (weighted mean difference (WMD) 0.48%; 95% confidence interval-3.27 to 4.23). All five positioning studies utilized esophageal pH monitoring as their outcome measure. Elevating the head of the crib for treating reflux in the supine position is not justifiable. The seven metoclopramide studies used a variety of outcomes. Compared to placebo, metoclopramide appears to reduce daily symptoms ( SMD -0.73; 95% confidence interval -1.16 to -0.30), and reduce the reflux index (WMD -2.80%; 95% confidence interval -5.58 to -0.01). It does increase side effects.

REVIEWERS' CONCLUSIONS: Thickened feeds are helpful in reducing the symptoms of GER. Elevating the head of the crib in the supine position does not have any effect. Metoclopramide may have some benefit in comparison to placebo in the symptomatic treatment for GER, but that must be weighed against possible side effects. .

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