Normalizing nutritional status starts with a nutritional assessment. This process enables a clinical nutritionist or registered dietician to confirm the presence of malnutrition, assess the effects of the disorder, and formulate diets that will restore adequate nutrition.
Patients who cannot or will not eat, or who are unable to absorb nutrients taken by mouth, may be fed intravenously (parenteral nutrition) or through a tube inserted into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (enteral nutrition).
Tube feeding is often used to provide nutrients to patients who have suffered burns or who have inflammatory bowel disease. This procedure involves inserting a thin tube through the nose and carefully guiding it along the throat until it reaches the stomach or small intestine. If long-term tube feeding is necessary, the tube may be placed directly into the stomach or small intestine through an incision in the abdomen.
Tube feeding cannot always deliver adequate nutrients to patients who:
- are severely malnourished
- require surgery
- are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- have been seriously burned
- have persistent diarrhea or vomiting
- whose gastrointestinal tract is paralyzed
Intravenous feeding can supply some or all of the nutrients these patients need.