Allergic gastroenteropathy in preterm infants


Objectives: To determine the clinical presentation, histopathologic features, and outcome of biopsy-proven allergic gastroenteropathy (AGE) in preterm infants. We hypothesized that AGE is a more frequent cause of gastrointestinal disease in this population than previously suspected. Study design: The retrospective portion of the study, from 1992 to 1997, included preterm infants <37 weeks’ gestation who underwent biopsy because of suspected AGE. The prospective portion, from January to December 1998, included 20 infants undergoing endoscopy and biopsy because of suspected AGE. Results: Twenty-five infants (12 retrospective/13 prospective) with mean gestational age of 29 weeks at birth and mean postnatal age at diagnosis of 78 days were diagnosed with AGE. Three clinical patterns of presentation were noted: group 1, gastroesophageal reflux disease (n = 5); group 2, nonspecific feeding intolerance (n = 8); and group 3, lower gastrointestinal bleeding (n = 12). Ten patients had negative biopsy findings (3 retrospective/7 prospective) and had clinical features indistinguishable from those of groups 1 and 2. Patients in group 3 were most likely to have positive biopsy findings (12 of 12). Fifteen patients responded to a casein hydrolysate formula, and 10 patients required an amino acid–based formula. Patients with AGE who had eosinophilic infiltration and villous atrophy took longer to recover than those with eosinophilic infiltration alone (P < .03). Subsequently, most have tolerated formula challenges and are currently tolerating cow’s milk. Conclusions: AGE may be an under-recognized cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in preterm infants. Confirmation with endoscopy and biopsy can be done safely and provides the basis for appropriate dietary management. 

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Research and Reports in Gastroentrology