oa South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Early enteral nutrition compared to outcome in critically ill trauma patients at a level one trauma centre : original research



The benefit of an early enteral nutrition start in critical ill patients is widely accepted. However, limited published data focus on trauma patients. This study aimed to investigate the effect of early enteral nutrition initiation on length of stay and mortality in an intensive care unit (ICU), as well as explore if enteral nutrition initiation could serve as a prognostic marker in trauma patients.

This was a retrospective audit of a prospective ethics-approved database (University of KwaZulu-Natal Biomedical Research Ethics Committee No BE207-09) which compared enteral nutrition to outcome.
The setting was a level 1 trauma ICU in Durban, South Africa.
The subjects were critically ill trauma patients.
Demographic data, enteral nutrition timing, feed tolerance, and the outcome of early versus late initiation of enteral feeding were the outcome measures.
Nine hundred and fifty-two patients were included. Eight hundred and ninety-eight received enteral nutrition and were divided into three subgroups (tertiles T1-T3) according to their Injury Severity Score (ISS). The statistical analysis demonstrated that an early enteral nutrition start had a significant positive effect on both length of stay (13.7 vs. 16.4 days, p-value 0.00315) and mortality (9.5 % vs. 20.7 % p-value 0.0062). A multiple logistic regression model was developed, using multiple variables, to test the factors that affected the outcome. There was a significant effect on length of stay with an early enteral nutrition start in patients with a low to medium ISS (T1), and a highly significant effect on mortality in patients with a low to medium, and high, ISS (T1 and T2). Early initiation of enteral nutrition is strongly favoured in regression analyses.
Patients in the trauma ICU benefit from an early enteral nutrition. The model used featuring the three independent variables, i.e. the day on which enteral nutrition is commenced, age and ISS, may serve as a prognostic marker with regard to length of stay and mortality in the ICU.


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