Published online Aug 7, 2007. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i29.3909
Revised: June 1, 2007
Accepted: June 4, 2007
Published online: August 7, 2007
Malnutrition is associated with poor outcomes in critically ill patients. Although nutritional support is yet to be proven to improve mortality in non-malnourished critically ill patients, early enteral feeding is considered best practice. However, enteral feeding is often limited by delayed gastric emptying. The best method to clinically identify delayed gastric emptying and feed intolerance is unclear. Gastric residual volume (GRV) measured at the bedside is widely used as a surrogate marker for gastric emptying, but the value of GRV measurement has recently been disputed. While the mechanisms underlying delayed gastric emptying require further investigation, recent research has given a better appreciation of the pathophysiology. A number of pharmacological strategies are available to improve the success of feeding. Recent data suggest a combination of intravenous metoclopramide and erythromycin to be the most successful treatment, but novel drug therapies should be explored. Simpler methods to access the duodenum and more distal small bowel for feed delivery are also under investigation. This review summarises current understanding of the factors responsible for, and mechanisms underlying feed intolerance in critical illness, together with the evidence for current practices. Areas requiring further research are also highlighted.