Study finds 33% of ICU patients malnourished

A multi-center study presented at the recent 24th Annual Clinical Congress of the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition in Nashville, TN, found that caregivers underestimated the nutritional needs of one out of every three intensive care unit patients.

In this study, researchers used sensor technology instruments to measure the daily metabolic rate of critically ill patients. They found that current practices of estimating nutritional requirements resulted in caloric deficits of more than 10,000 calories in one third of patients during their ICU care. In addition, patients who suffered these large caloric deficits required substantially more days on a respirator and more days in the ICU than patients who received adequate nutritional support.

"Unfortunately, tables and formulas intended for everybody cannot reliably predict the needs of an individual patient," notes James Mault, MD, a surgeon at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver and a researcher on the project. "As a result, without us realizing it, many of our critically ill patients are subjected to circumstances equal to you and me not eating for five straight days. It's not hard to understand why it may take longer for these patients to recover from their illnesses. Ideally, patients' nutritional needs should be routinely monitored just like heart rate and blood pressure. However, the current technology available to make these measurements is far too complicated and expensive."

Advances in sensor technology are likely to result in a simpler and much less expensive monitor of individual nutritional requirements by the end of this year, researchers note. For more information on the study and others presented at the clinical congress, visit the organization Web site at