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JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2003 Jan-Feb;27(1):74-83.

Nutrition support in the critical care setting: current practice in canadian ICUs--opportunities for improvement?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



The purpose of this project was to describe current nutrition support practice in the critical care setting and to identify interventions to target for quality improvement initiatives.


We conducted a cross-sectional national survey of dietitians working in intensive care units (ICUs) across Canada to document various aspects of nutrition support practice.


Of the 79 dietitians sent study materials, 66 responded (83%). Sixteen of 66 sites (24.2%) reported the presence of a nutrition support team, and 35 of 66 (53%) used a standard enteral feeding protocol. Dietitians retrospectively abstracted data from charts of all patients in the ICU on April 18, 2001. Of 702 patients, 313 (44.6%) received enteral nutrition only, 50 (7.1%) received parenteral nutrition only, 60 (8.5%) received both, and 279 (39.7%) received no form of nutrition support. Enteral nutrition was initiated on 1.6 days (median) after admission to ICU; 10.7% of patients were initiated on day 1. Of those receiving any form of nutrition support, on average, patients received 58% of their prescribed amounts of calories and protein over the first 12 days in the ICU. Of all days on enteral feeds, patients received feeds into the small bowel on 381 of 2321 (16.4%) days. The mean head of the bed elevation for all patients was 30 degrees. Controlling for differences in patient characteristics, site factors contributing the most successful application of nutrition support included the amount of funded dietitians per ICU bed, size of ICU, and the fact that the ICU was located in an academic setting.


A significant number of critically ill patients did not receive any form of nutrition support for the study period. Those that did receive nutrition support did not meet their prescribed energy or protein needs, especially earlier in the course of their illness. Significant opportunities to improve provision of nutrition support to critically ill patients exist.

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