When should nutritional support be implemented in a hospitalized patient?


Key Points

  • At the time of admission to the hospital, malnutrition is present in 20-50% of patients. All hospitalized patients should be screened for nutritional risk and nutritional support should be considered if patients are not expected to be able to meet nutritional needs for more than 7 days.
  • Patients with severe malnutrition on admission, severe critical illness, or severe acute pancreatitis should be provided nutritional support within 24-48 hours.
  • Use the gut! Nutritional support should be provided via the most physiologic route possible. Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) should be reserved for patients in whom adequate nutrition cannot be provided enterally.
  • Consider a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube if the patient is expected to require tube feedings for more than 30 days.
  • Patients with severe malnutrition who are given nutritional support are at high risk of developing refeeding syndrome, which manifests as electrolyte depletions and heart failure or volume overload.


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