Nutrition Support in the Open Abdomen

Nutr Clin Pract. 2016 Feb;31(1):9-13. doi: 10.1177/0884533615620420. Epub 2015 Dec 16.


Early provision of enteral nutrition (EN) in critically ill and injured patients has become standard practice in surgical intensive care units (ICUs) due to its proven role in reducing septic complications. Increasingly, intensivists are confronted with patients with an open abdomen due to the use of damage control surgery and the recognition of the abdominal compartment syndrome; the role and timing of EN in these challenging patients continue to be debated. Patients with an open abdomen are often among the sickest in the ICU and hence could benefit from early nutrition support. However, the exposed abdominal viscera can understandably create anxiety regarding the initiation of EN; there is theoretic concern over exacerbation of bowel distention with resultant inability to close the abdomen and an increased aspiration risk due to paralytic ileus. Recent studies have investigated the utility of EN in the patient with an open abdomen, addressing these clinical concerns. The goal of this clinical review is to provide guidance to physicians caring for these complex patients.

Keywords: critical illness; enteral nutrition; nutritional support; open abdomen; surgery; trauma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology*
  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Abdominal Injuries / complications
  • Abdominal Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards
  • Intra-Abdominal Hypertension / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome