Acute pancreatitis (AP) represents a significant disease burden in the pediatric population. The management of AP includes fluid resuscitation, pain management, and early enteral feeds. Contrary to old dogma, early enteral feeding has been shown to improve outcomes and reduce hospital length of stay (LOS), yet uptake of this approach has not been standardized. Our aim was to standardize the management of AP, increasing the percentage of patients receiving early enteral nutrition from 40% to 65% within 12 months.
Between January 2013 and September 2021, we conducted a quality improvement initiative among patients hospitalized with AP. Interventions included the development of a clinical care pathway, integration of an AP order set, and physician education. Our primary outcome was the percentage of patients receiving enteral nutrition within 48 hours of admission, and our secondary outcome was hospital LOS. Balancing measures included hospital readmission rates.
A total of 652 patients were admitted for AP during the project, of which 322 (49%) were included after pathway implementation. Before pathway development, the percentage of patients receiving early enteral nutrition was 40%, which increased significantly to 84% after our interventions. This improvement remained stable. Median LOS decreased significantly from 5.5 to 4 days during this timeframe. Our balancing measure of readmission rates did not change during the project period.
Through multiple interventions, including the implementation of an AP clinical pathway, we significantly increased the proportion of patients receiving early enteral nutrition and decreased hospital LOS without increasing hospital readmission rates.