A Quality Improvement Intervention to Reduce Necrotizing Enterocolitis in premature infants with Probiotic Supplementation Academic Article uri icon

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  • Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is a severe intestinal inflammatory disease due to multifactorial causes that present in preterm infants. Compared with similar neonatal intensive care units, our NEC rate was increasing and prompted reduction by a quality improvement (QI) intervention.


    We aimed to reduce NEC rate by 30% by the end of 2016. We used the Institute of Healthcare Improvement model and typical QI tools, including teamwork, process organizing tools, and evidence-based review, to assist in our selection of supplementation of Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic. We used education, process mapping, process control statistics, and forcing mechanism to implement the changes. In addition to reducing NEC rates, our additional outcome measures were sepsis, mortality, sepsis evaluations, feeding intolerance, growth, days of both antimicrobials, and parenteral nutrition use. Process measures were compliance with probiotics supplementation policy and balancing measures were sepsis rates and feeding intolerance.


    NEC rates decreased from 4.4% to the current 1.7%, and in a pre/post-intervention analysis, the results were significant in all patient subcategories. We did not demonstrate a reduction in mortality. No adverse events occurred. Feeding intolerance episodes and days nil-per-os decreased with no differences in growth at discharge. These results continued over 2 years, and this practice has already spread to several neonatal intensive care units in Ontario, Canada.


    We utilized QI methods and tools to implement a successful practice change of routine probiotic supplementation to reduce NEC rates in preterm infants. We suggest considering this intervention as a successful means to prevent this serious illness.


  • Rolnitsky, Asaph
  • Ng, Eu-gene
  • Asztalos, Elizabeth
  • Shama, Yasmin
  • Karol, Dalia
  • Findlater, Carla
  • Garsch, Maren
  • Dunn, Michael

publication date

  • September 9, 2019