Diarrhoea risk factors in enterally tube fed critically ill patients: a retrospective audit

Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2010 Dec;26(6):327-34. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2010.08.001.


Objective: Diarrhoea in the enterally tube fed (ETF) intensive care unit (ICU) patient is a multi-factorial problem. Diarrhoeal aetiologies in this patient cohort remain debatable; however, the consequences of diarrhoea have been well established and include electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, bacterial translocation, peri anal wound contamination and sleep deprivation. This study examined the incidence of diarrhoea and explored factors contributing to the development of diarrhoea in the ETF, critically ill, adult patient.

Method: After institutional ethical review and approval, a single centre medical chart audit was undertaken to examine the incidence of diarrhoea in ETF, critically ill patients. Retrospective, non-probability sequential sampling was used of all emergency admission adult ICU patients who met the inclusion/exclusion criteria.

Results: Fifty patients were audited. Faecal frequency, consistency and quantity were considered important criteria in defining ETF diarrhoea. The incidence of diarrhoea was 78%. Total patient diarrhoea days (r=0.422; p=0.02) and total diarrhoea frequency (r=0.313; p=0.027) increased when the patient was ETF for longer periods of time. Increased severity of illness, peripheral oxygen saturation (Sp02), glucose control, albumin and white cell count were found to be statistically significant factors for the development of diarrhoea.

Conclusion: Diarrhoea in ETF critically ill patients is multi-factorial. The early identification of diarrhoea risk factors and the development of a diarrhoea risk management algorithm is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Illness*
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea / etiology*
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult