Newer combination antiretroviral therapies used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals have resulted in dramatic delays in HIV progression, with reduction in mortality and morbidity. However, adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) may be problematic, particularly in HIV-infected children. Reasons for nonadherence include refusal, drug tolerability, and adverse reactions. We assess: 1) the potential benefits of gastrostomy tube (GT) for the improvement of adherence to HAART in HIV-infected children, and 2) the factors that may result in improved viral suppression after GT placement.
The medical records of 17 pediatric HIV-infected patients, in whom GT was used to improve HAART adherence, were retrospectively reviewed for clinical and laboratory parameters. Each record was reviewed for the period of 1 year before and after GT insertion. The main outcome parameters were virologic (plasma HIV RNA polymerase chain reaction quantification) and immunologic (CD4 cell counts). Documentation of adherence to medications in medical records was also assessed during the study. Parental questionnaires were used to determine GT satisfaction and medication administration times. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to assess change in viral load (VL) and CD4 cell percentages.
GT was well-tolerated with minor complications, such as local site tenderness, reported by 4 patients (23%). Before GT insertion, only 6 patients (35%) were documented as being adherent, compared with all patients after GT insertion. Ten patients (58%) had ≥2 log10 VL decline after GT insertion (median: 3.2 log10), compared with 7 patients (42%) who had ≤2 log10 VL decline (median: 1.27 log10). Both groups of patients (responders and nonresponders) did not differ significantly in baseline parameters, such as VL, CD4 cell percentages, or previous drug therapy. However, in all 10 patients with ≥2 log10 VL decline, therapy was changed at the time of or soon after GT insertion (median: .8 months; range: 0–6 months), compared with 7 patients with <2 log10 VL decline who had therapy changed before GT insertion (median: 3.2 months; range: 1–8 months). Parental questionnaires reported significantly shorter medication administration times after GT insertion, with 70% of patients taking >5 minutes before GT, compared with 0% after GT. Questionnaires indicated satisfaction with GT, with perceived benefits being reduced medication administration time and improved behavior surrounding taking medications.
GT is well-tolerated in pediatric HIV-infected patients and should be considered for selected patients to overcome difficulties with medication administration and to improve adherence. For maximal virologic response, combination therapy should be changed at the time of GT insertion.