Nutrition support in the critically ill: a physician survey

Ami Shah Behara, Sarah J Peterson, Yimin Chen, John Butsch, Omar Lateef, Srinadh Komanduri
JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 2008, 32 (2): 113-9

BACKGROUND: Current clinical practice guidelines delineate optimal nutrition management in the intensive care unit (ICU) patient. In light of these existing data, the authors identify current physician perceptions of nutrition in critical illness, preferences relating to initiation of feeding, and management practices specific to nutrition after initiation of feeding in the ICU patient.

METHODS: The authors electronically distributed a 12-question survey to attending physicians, fellows, and residents who routinely admit patients to medical and surgical ICUs.

RESULTS: On a scale ranging from 1 to 5 (1 = low, 5 = high), the attending physician's mean rating for importance of nutrition in the ICU was 4.60, the rating for comfort level with the nutrition support at the authors' institution was 3.70, and the rating for the physician's own understanding of nutrition support in critically ill patients was 3.33. Attending physicians, fellows, and residents reported waiting an average of 2.43, 1.79, and 2.63 days, respectively, before addressing nutrition status in an ICU patient. Fifty-two percent of attending physicians chose parenteral nutrition as the preferred route of nutrition support in a patient with necrotizing pancreatitis. If a patient experiences enteral feeding intolerance, physicians most commonly would stop tube feeds. There was no significant difference in responses to any of the survey questions between attending physicians, fellows, and residents.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates a substantial discordance in physician perceptions and practice patterns regarding initiation and management of nutrition in ICU patients, indicating an urgent need for nutrition-related education at all levels of training.

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