Enteral nutrition delivery in the critically ill is frequently interrupted for surgical and airway procedures to avoid aspiration of stomach contents. Recurrent fasting leads to under delivery of enteral nutrition and this underfeeding is associated with worse outcomes. International fasting recommendations do not provide guidance for intubated patients receiving enteral nutrition. This study aimed to gain a detailed perspective of UK critical care fasting practices.

A web-based survey was sent to 232 UK intensive care units consisting of questions relating to fasting practices, presence of guidelines, average fasting times for common procedures and dietitian time per intensive care unit bed.

A total of 176 intensive care units responded. Only 20% of units had guidelines and respondents stated that they were not consistently adhered to (mean compliance 66%). Units with greater dietetic involvement were more likely to have guidelines (p = 0.04). Fasting times were shorter for abdominal surgery (p = 0.002), non-abdominal surgery (p = 0.016) and radiology (p = 0.015) if a guideline was present. Fasting for extubation and tracheostomy was similar irrespective of the presence of a guideline. Considerable variation in fasting times was reported, usually due to inconsistencies in clinical decision-making.

This survey of national practice demonstrates that fasting times are varied and inconsistent, which may lead to under-delivery of enteral nutrition. More dietetic input was associated with increased likelihood of a fasting guideline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-195
JournalJournal of the Intensive Care Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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