Barriers to nutrition therapy in the critically ill patient with COVID-19

Sally Suliman,, Stephen A. McClave, Beth E. Taylor, Jayshil Patel,, Endashaw Omer,, Robert G. Martindale,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created challenges for intensivists, as high ventilatory demands and prolonged hypermetabolism make it difficult to sustain nutrition status. The purpose of this survey was to determine current practices in nutrition therapy and identify barriers to its delivery. Methods: A survey about delivering nutrition therapy to critically ill patients with COVID-19 was sent to clinicians at academic and community hospitals from September to December 2020. Results: Of 440 who viewed the survey, 199 (45%) completed the questionnaire. Respondents were composed of 30%, physicians and 70% registered dietitians, with 51% representing community programs, 43% academic institutions, and 6% Veterans Affairs centers. Half (49%) had protocols for managing critically ill patients with COVID-19, and 21% had a protocol for nutrition therapy. Although most respondents (83%) attempted to feed by the intragastric route, only 9% indicated that energy/protein needs were met. The biggest barriers to delivery of enteral nutrition (EN) involved the patients unpredictable clinical course and fear of aspiration given the lack of respiratory reserve. Intensivists were reluctant to add supplemental parenteral nutrition (PN) because of perceived lack of benefit. Conclusion: The survey results would suggest that strategies for nutrition therapy based on the intragastric infusion of EN are unsuccessful in meeting the energy/protein needs of critically ill patients with COVID-19. It is likely these barriers exist in providing nutrition to non-Covid-19 critically ill patients. Intensivists need protocols that optimally deliver intragastric EN, consider early postpyloric infusion, and address adding supplemental PN in a deteriorating nutrition status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-816
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2022


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2 viral infection
  • barriers
  • enteral nutrition
  • nutrition therapy
  • parenteral nutrition
  • tube feeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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