Numerous factors may impede the delivery of enteral tube feedings (ETF) in the intensive care unit (ICU). We designed a prospective study to determine whether the use of an infusion protocol could improve the delivery of ETF in the ICU.In a prior prospective study, we monitored all patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) or cardiac care unit (CCU) who were made nil per os and placed on ETF (control group). We found that critically ill patients received only 52% of their goal calories, primarily due to physician underordering (66% of goal), frequent cessations of ETF (22% of the time), and slow advancement (14% at goal by 72 hours). Based on these findings, we developed an ETF protocol that incorporated standardized physician ordering and nursing procedures, rapid advancement, and limited ETF interruption. After extensive educational sessions, the ETF protocol was begun. Again, all patients admitted to the MICU or CCU who were made nil per os and placed on ETF were prospectively followed (protocol group).Thirty-one patients in the protocol group were followed during 312 days of ETF and compared with the control group (44 patients with 339 days of ETF). Despite efforts by the nutritional support team, the infusion protocol was used in only 18 patients (58%). The main reasons for noncompliance with the protocol were physician preference and system failure (ETF order sheet not placed in chart). When used, the infusion protocol improved physician ordering (control 66% of goal volume, noncompliant 68%, compliant 82%, p < .05); delivery of calories (control 52% of goal, noncompliant 55%, compliant 68%, p < .05); and advancement of ETF (control 14% at goal by 72 hours, noncompliant 31%, compliant 56%, p < .05). Although significant reduction in ETF cessation due to nursing care was noted, it represented only a fraction of the total time ETF were stopped. Cessation due to residual volumes, patient tolerance, and procedure continued to be a frequent occurrence and was often avoidable.An evidence-based infusion protocol improved the delivery of ETF in the ICU, primarily because of better physician ordering and more rapid advancement. The nursing staff rapidly assimilated these changes. However, physicians' reluctance to use the protocol limited its efficacy and will need continued educational efforts.
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View details for PubMedID 10485441