Causes and consequences of interrupted enteral nutrition: a prospective observational study in critically ill surgical patients

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2015 Jan;39(1):21-7. doi: 10.1177/0148607114526887. Epub 2014 Apr 7.


Background: Malnutrition and underfeeding are major challenges in caring for critically ill patients. Our goal was to characterize interruptions in enteral nutrition (EN) delivery and their impact on caloric debt in the surgical intensive care unit (ICU).

Materials and methods: We performed a prospective, observational study of adults admitted to surgical ICUs at a Boston teaching hospital (March-December 2012). We categorized EN interruptions as "unavoidable" vs "avoidable" and compared caloric deficit between patients with ≥1 EN interruption (group 1) vs those without interruptions (group 2). Multivariable logistic regression was used to investigate the association of EN interruption with the risk of underfeeding. Poisson regression was used to investigate the association of EN interruption with length of stay (LOS) and mortality.

Results: Ninety-four patients comprised the analytic cohort. Twenty-six percent of interruptions were deemed "avoidable." Group 1 (n = 64) had a significantly higher mean daily and cumulative caloric deficit vs group 2 (n = 30). Patients in group 1 were at a 3-fold increased risk of being underfed (adjusted odds ratio, 2.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-8.11), had a 30% higher risk of prolonged ICU LOS (adjusted incident risk ratio [IRR], 1.27; 95% CI, 1.14-1.42), and had a 50% higher risk of prolonged hospital LOS (adjusted IRR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.41-1.67) vs group 2.

Conclusions: In our cohort of critically ill surgical patients, EN interruption was frequent, largely "unavoidable," and associated with undesirable outcomes. Future efforts to optimize nutrition in the surgical ICU may benefit from considering strategies that maximize nutrient delivery before and after clinically appropriate EN interruptions.

Keywords: ICU nutrition; caloric debt; critical illness; malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Energy Intake
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome