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Nutritionists and the Cardiac Patient

The speciality of critical care has stratified alongside the development of cardiothoracic surgery over the years to give rise to cardtiothoracic surgical critical care - a ‘new’ subspeciality birthed specifically to address and combat the unique physiological changes and complications associated with cardiothoracic surgery. Within the subspeciality, the nutritionist has become an integral part of the care team, equipped with uninterrupted knowledge right from the preoperative needs of a patient through to the requirements of a patient who has been discharged from the watchful eye of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).


The final stitch on the scar that tells of the patient’s brave-heart is pulled closed. The first leg of her battle for longevity is over, and she is taken to the ICU ward. Her body has experienced a loss of total body protein and micronutrients have been redistributed throughout the body to where they are needed most. The ICU team monitors her closely - this is where she meets her nutritionist for the first time. She is given nutrients specifically for systemic modulation and that aid the functioning of her organs, and her nutritionist controls her glucose levels through the practice of insulin therapy (Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia, 2015).

There is a little boy in the bed next to her who is due to go in for surgery to rectify his congenital heart defect in two days. He has already met his nutritionist due to the malnourishment he has already presented. He is tube fed and his nutritionist controls everything that he consumes. The nutritional intervention he is receiving will increase his ability to recover without complications once he has had his op.


In 2015, the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia reported that an estimated 10% to 25% of cardiac surgical patients experienced malnutrition, due to prolonged ICU stays and postoperative infection complications. The nutritionist has become a beacon of light - the integrator of proven nutritional regimes and metabolic support paradigms that have been researched and developed over the last decade to aid the critically ill patient in their recovery and to increase their chances of survival. Actively preventative and wholesome healing therapy that helps to speed up and stabilise recovery is integral to the total process. Nutrition after surgery aids in wound healing, supports the immune system in fighting and protecting against infection and noticeably contributes to attaining the best outcome (Tampa Bay Times, 2013). Nutritionists serve as a vital role in the cardiac patients team and chance at life. To read more about cardiac rehabilitation, click here.


© Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute 2017 | Featured Image: Jamie Street Sources:


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