Research investigates nutrition for patients in the ICU

Our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) research team was one of only two private hospitals in Australia and New Zealand to participate in a study to understand the effect of delivering nutrition during critical illness.

Adrian Regli, Annamaria Palermo and Sue Pellicano Nutrition study in New England Journal of Medicine

7 November 2018

The research team consisted of Intensive Care Physician Adrian Regli and Research Nurses Annamaria Palermo and Sue Pellicano.

Dr Adrian Regli said the research was designed to establish the optimal calories to be provided to sick patients.

“It is thought that the amount of calories given should match the energy expenditure,” Dr Regli said.

“Many sick patients end up receiving only 60 per cent of the prescribed amount of calories due to fasting for procedures and reduced motility and resorption capacity of the gut.

“Sick patients often end up with severe muscle wasting resulting in increased deaths, prolonged recovery time, or reduced functional capacity once out of hospital.”

The study concluded that the rate of survival for these patients at 90 days did not differ between those who had the energy-dense formulation and those who did not.

“The results are disappointing as we still haven't found a way to combat muscle wasting in sick patients. But the results help us relax when it comes to the amount of nutrition given to sick patients and we can turn the research focus to other ways to prevent muscle wasting.”

This randomised controlled trial recruited 3,957 participants from across Australia and New Zealand.

Patients aged 18 or over were eligible, receiving mechanical ventilation and expected to receive nutrition via feeding tube in the ICU for 24 hours or more.

Six patients were recruited for this study at St John of God Murdoch Hospital between March and November 2017.

The article Energy-Dense versus Routine Enteral Nutrition in the Critically Ill was recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

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