Clinical nutrition practice in Italian gastroenterology units

F. W. Guglielmi, C. Panella, A. Losco, G. Budillon, D. Conte, C. Del Vecchio Blanco, G. Gasbarrini, C. Loguercio, M. Merli, G. Mingrone, G. Nardone, O. Riggio, A. Francavilla

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Background. Nutritional status affects the course, ensuing complications and prognosis of virtually all diseases. Aims. To define the role of nutrition in Gastroenterology Units by means of two investigations that analyse: a) availability of devices for assessing nutritional status; b) nutritional treatment in clinical practice: incidence and frequency of indications for its use, together with type of treatment adopted. Patients and Methods. Two questionnaires were sent to Italian Academic and Hospital Gastroenterology Units, all with clinical wards. Results. Results refer to 27 Units, 22 of which took part in both parts of the analysis, enrolling 547 patients during the two-week study. The first analysis shows that scales and the altimeter are not available everywhere, while more specific tools, such as skinfold calipers are available in 54% of the Units, and caloric intake can be assessed in 22-41%. The second analysis reveals that nutritional treatment was necessary in 50% of patients in the series examined, and that this was taken into account and prescribed in almost all cases (91%). Of the patients treated, 69% received dietetic supplementation and 31% artificial nutrition (12% enteral, 88% parenteral), although supportive parenteral nutrition is often contraindicated in conditions where good bowel function provides the conditions for enteral nutrition. Conclusion. Data emerging from the investigation showed that i) artificial nutrition is commonly used in gastroenterology Units in Italy, although 23% of them never consider either enteral or parenteral nutrition as medical treatment of gastrointestinal disease; ii) malnutrition is a very frequent complication (mean 27%; range 4-55%) in Gastroenterology Unit patients albeit only 42% of malnourished patients received artificial nutrition; iii) indications for enteral and parenteral nutrition are not always respected, as there is an excessive use of parenteral nutrition and an unjustified resistance to the use of enteral nutrition; iv) nutritional treatment is often administered without adequate nutritional assessment and without a complete adherence to the standards recommended for preparation of parenteral bags, supported by suitable technology; v) only two Gastroenterology Units report admitting and following patients in a home parenteral nutrition programme; vi) this investigation probably reflects the response of those Gastroenterology Units most aware of the importance of nutritional problems. Better awareness of correct practices for nutritional support should be promoted, encouraging greater use of diagnostic and monitoring techniques and a more discerning choice of the most suitable type of artificial nutrition to be administered in gastroenterology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-479
Number of pages7
JournalDigestive and Liver Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Artificial nutrition
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Nutritional assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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