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Enteral vs. parenteral nutrition in septic shock

are they equivalent?

Kott, Matthiasa; Hartl, Wolfgang H.b; Elke, Gunnara

Current Opinion in Critical Care: August 2019 - Volume 25 - Issue 4 - p 340–348
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000618
METABOLIC SUPPORT: Edited by Mette M. Berger

Purpose of review The current review focuses on recent clinical evidence and updated guideline recommendations on the effects of enteral vs. parenteral nutrition in adult critically ill patients with (septic) shock.

Recent findigs The largest multicenter randomized-controlled trial showed that the route of nutrient supply was unimportant for 28-day and 90-day mortality, infectious morbidity and length of stay in mechanically ventilated patients with shock. The enteral route, however, was associated with lower macronutrient intake and significantly higher frequency of hypoglycemia and moderate-to-severe gastrointestinal complications. Integrating these findings into recent meta-analyses confirmed that the route per se has no effect on mortality and that interactions with (infectious) morbidity are inconsistent or questionable.

Summary The strong paradigm of favoring the enteral over the parenteral route in critically ill patients has been challenged. As a consequence, updated guidelines recommend withholding enteral nutrition in patients with uncontrolled shock. It is still unclear, however, whether parenteral nutrition is advantageous in patients with shock although benefits are conceivable in light of less gastrointestinal complications. Thus far, no guideline has addressed indications for parenteral nutrition in these patients. By considering recent scientific evidence, specific guideline recommendations, and expert opinions, we present a clinical algorithm that may facilitate decision-making when feeding critically ill patients with shock.

aDepartment of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Kiel

bDepartment of Surgery, University School of Medicine, Grosshadern Campus, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Correspondence to Gunnar Elke, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Arnold-Heller-Str. 3, 24105 Kiel, Germany. Tel: +49 431 500 20705; fax: +49 431 500 20804; e-mail:

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