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Paediatric intensive care nurses' decision-making around gastric residual volume measurement

Tume, Lyvonne N.; Latten, Lynne; Kenworthy, Lindsay


Lyvonne N. Tume

Lynne Latten

Lindsay Kenworthy


© 2017 British Association of Critical Care Nurses Background: Measuring gastric residual volume (GRV) to guide enteral feeding is a common nursing practice in intensive care units, yet little evidence supports this practice. In addition, this practice has been shown to potentially contribute to inadequate energy delivery in intensive care, which remains a problem in critically ill children. Aims: We aimed to explore paediatric intensive care nurses' decision-making surrounding this practice. Methods: This is a cross-sectional electronic survey in a single mixed general and cardiac surgical PICU in the UK. Results: The response rate was 59% (91/154), and responding nurses were experienced, with a mean PICU experience of 10·5 years (SD 8·09). The three main reasons for stopping or withholding enteral feeds were: the volume of GRV obtained (67%), the appearance of this gastric aspirate (40%) and the overall clinical condition of the child (23%). Most nurses reported checking GRV primarily to determine ‘feed tolerance’ (97%) as well as confirming feeding tube position (94%). Nurses' perceived harms from high GRV were: the risk of pulmonary aspiration (44%), malabsorption of feeds (20%) and the risk of vomiting (19%). GRV was measured frequently in this PICU, with 58% measuring GRV before every feed, 27% measuring every 4 h and 17% measuring every 6 h. The majority of nurses (84%) stated they would be worried or very worried if they could not measure GRV routinely. Conclusions: PICU nurses' decision-making surrounding initiating and withholding enteral feeds and determining ‘feed tolerance’ remains heavily based on GRV. PICU nurses have significant fears around patient harm if they do not measure GRV routinely. Relevance to clinical practice: This nursing practice is likely to be one of the factors that impair the delivery of enteral nutrition in critically ill children, and as such, its validity and usefulness needs to be challenged and studied in future research.


Tume, L. N., Tume, L. N., Latten, L., & Kenworthy, L. (2017). Paediatric intensive care nurses' decision-making around gastric residual volume measurement. Nursing in Critical Care, 22(5), 293-297.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 23, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 22, 2017
Publication Date Sep 1, 2017
Journal Nursing in Critical Care
Print ISSN 1362-1017
Electronic ISSN 1478-5153
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 5
Pages 293-297
Keywords nutrition, nursing practice, critically ill child, gastric residual volume, intensive care
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Tume, L. N., Latten, L. and Kenworthy, L. (2017) Paediatric intensive care nurses’ decision-making around gastric residual volume measurement. Nursing in Critical Care. ISSN 1362-1017 [In Press] Available from:, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


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