Objective: To determine whether the implementation of a nutritional management protocol in the ICU leads to the increased use of enteral nutrition, earlier feeding, and improved clinical outcomes in patients.
Design: Prospective evaluation of critically ill patients before and after the introduction of an evidence-based guideline for providing nutritional support in the ICU.
Setting: The medical-surgical ICUs of two teaching hospitals.
Patients: Two hundred critically ill adult patients who remained npo > 48 h after their admission to the ICU. One hundred patients were enrolled into the preimplementation group, and 100 patients were enrolled in the postimplementation group.
Intervention: Implementation of an evidence-based ICU nutritional management protocol.
Measurement and results: Nutritional outcome measures included the number of patients who received enteral nutrition, the time to initiate nutritional support, and the percent caloric target administered on day 4 of nutritional support. Clinical outcomes included the duration of mechanical ventilation, ICU and in-hospital length of stay (LOS), and in-hospital mortality rates. Patients in the postimplementation group were fed more frequently via the enteral route (78% vs 68%, respectively; p = 0.08), and this difference was statistically significant after adjusting for severity of illness, baseline nutritional status, and other factors (odds ratio, 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 to 5.0; p = 0.009). The time to feeding and the caloric intake on day 4 of nutritional support were not different between the groups. The mean (± SD) duration of mechanical ventilation was shorter in the postimplementation group (17.9 ± 31.3 vs 11.2 ± 19.5 days, respectively; p = 0.11), and this difference was statistically significant after adjusting for age, gender, severity of illness, type of admission, baseline nutritional status, and type of nutritional support (p = 0.03). There was no difference in ICU or hospital LOS between the two groups. The risk of death was 56% lower in patients who received enteral nutrition (hazard ratio, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.80; p = 0.007).
Conclusion: An evidence-based nutritional management protocol increased the likelihood that ICU patients would receive enteral nutrition, and shortened their duration of mechanical ventilation. Enteral nutrition was associated with a reduced risk of death in those patients studied.