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  1. Bailey, Natalia MS, RD
  2. Clark, Molly MS, RD
  3. Nordlund, Megan MS, RD
  4. Shelton, Marilyn RD
  5. Farver, Katie RD


Adequate nutrition support is a key component in achieving favorable outcomes for the critically ill patient. Significant evidence supports starting enteral nutrition rather than parenteral nutrition as early as possible after injury to promote positive outcomes. Evidence shows that enteral nutrition improves patient outcomes and decreases intensive care unit length of stay by improving splanchnic blood flow, moderating the metabolic response, sustaining gut integrity, and preventing bacterial translocation from the gut to the bloodstream. Implementing early enteral nutrition can be challenging. This article describes the rationale for early enteral nutrition, the evidence that favors enteral nutrition over parenteral nutrition, barriers to delivery of full enteral nutrition, and an evidence-based protocol developed at Harborview Medical Center to promote appropriate support. The role of the registered dietitian on the health care team in facilitating appropriate feeding is discussed. In addition, we will describe emerging nutrition therapies including the use of antioxidants, addition of the amino acid glutamine, use of immune-enhancing enteral formulas, and the potential role of probiotics that show promise in improving patient outcome.