Dietetic practice in refeeding syndrome


G. Wagstaff, Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK.
Tel.: +44 (0)2075991719
Fax: +44 2075991718


Background:  The physiology and consequences of refeeding syndrome have long been recognised, although its management continues to be debated, despite the recommendations made by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in their guideline ‘Nutrition Support in Adults’ (2006). The present study aims to assess current dietetic opinion and practice in this area, as well as whether the NICE recommendations have been adopted.

Methods:  An anonymous, self-completed Internet survey was designed investigating current practice and opinions on the NICE (2006) guidance on this subject. A link to the questionnaire was distributed with a covering letter via e-mail to the heads of department of National Health Service Trusts in the London region, UK, requesting that it be disseminated to all dietitians working with adults. After the closing date, all responses were collated and analysed.

Results:  The survey elicited a 30.8% response rate. Some 89.8% of respondents have read the NICE guidance on Nutrition Support in Adults (2006) and 66.9% have changed their practice regarding refeeding syndrome management as a result. Sixty-two percent do not wait for biochemistry to normalise before commencing nutrition. Ninety-two percent of respondents completed the mini case studies indicating that current practice is inconsistent among dietitians. Neither NICE criteria for recognising patients at risk of refeeding, nor the recommended starting rates are universally followed. Seventy-five percent continue to supplement electrolytes reactively.

Conclusions:  Although limited by a small sample size, the findings of the present study suggest that dietetic practice regarding refeeding syndrome management remains inconsistent with the recommendations made by NICE, although some aspects have been adopted.