Nutrition Rehabilitation Role in ICU Survivor’s Recovery

Many people who have recovered from a serious illness are left with significant physical and psychological impairments after leaving the intensive care unit (ICU). Nutrition remains a challenge, particularly in the early stages of recovery in the ICU, where patients are often malnourished, a condition associated with poor outcomes. However, nutritional rehabilitation—the act of restoring or optimizing nutritional status after illness—is rarely emphasized, perhaps because it is an underappreciated and undervalued topic in intensive care rehabilitation and research. To date, 16 primary studies have been published to measure some aspect of nutritional status (eg, food intake or factors affecting food intake) in ICU survivors. The primary objective of this narrative review was to provide a summary of the key issues emerging from this research, which together form the basis of current knowledge of nutritional recovery and rehabilitation in ICU survivors. Loss of appetite and early satiety are the major physiological barriers to adequate nutrition for ICU survivors. Dysphagia and a reduced ability to feed independently are the 2nd functional barriers. Depression and body dysmorphia are also psychological barriers. The ability to eat in a patient who survives the ICU is sometimes hampered by organizational obstacles such as inconvenient feeding times and interruptions. When nutrition leaves the intensive care unit, many station staff lack the necessary expertise. Discontinuing enteral feeding prematurely, leaving patients dependent on oral feeding, is a major contributor to poor nutritional status after ICU discharge. Future research on nutritional recovery and post-ICU rehabilitation was examined, and realistic solutions to improve nutritional rehabilitation are explored in light of the issues that emerged from this analysis. Because of the close relationship between a person’s diet and their overall health, it was crucial to consider their nutritional status while designing a comprehensive plan for their recovery. As recognized specialists in the field of nutrition, dieticians should also be invited to participate in stakeholder meetings aimed at improving rehabilitation programs in intensive care units and better outcomes for survivors of critical illness.

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