Aim: Preterm infants have difficulty in attaining independent oral feeding. This can ensue from inadequate sucking, swallowing and/or respiration. In impeding bolus transport, immature oesophageal motility may also be a cause. As studies on the development of oesophageal motility are invasive in preterm infants, the preterm piglet was investigated as a potential research model. Methods: Oesophageal motility (EM) of term (n = 6) and preterm (n = 15) piglets were monitored by manometry for 10 min immediately following bottle feeding on days 1-2 and 3-4 of life. Results: Piglets' oral feeding performance and EM were similar to those of their human counterparts. Term piglets readily completed their feeding, whereas their preterm counterparts did not. They also presented with greater peristaltic activity and propagating velocity. Peristaltic activity remained unchanged over time in preterm piglets, but an increase in synchronous and decrease in incomplete motor activity were noted. Preterm piglets that developed symptoms analogous to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) demonstrated uncharacteristic oesophageal activity. Conclusion: Immature EM may cause oral feeding difficulties. NEC-like symptoms may adversely affect EM. The piglet is a valid research model for studying human infant oral feeding and oesophageal development.
- Oesophageal motility
- Oral feeding