Assessing calorie and protein recommendations for survivors of critical illness weaning from prolonged mechanical ventilation – can we find a proper balance?

Shanti Balasubramanian, Dena H. Tran, Monica Serra, Elizabeth A. Parker, Montserrat Diaz-Abad, Janaki Deepak, Michael T. McCurdy, Avelino C. Verceles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background & aims: Survivors of critical illness requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV) are predisposed to malnutrition, muscle wasting, and weakness. There is a lack of data regarding nutrition adequacy among these patients, and although nitrogen balance has been studied as a marker of adequate protein intake in healthy individuals and acutely critically ill patients, it has not been well studied in critically ill patients with PMV. The purpose of this study was to determine if patients requiring PMV admitted to a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) achieved registered dietitian (RD) recommended goals for energy and protein intake and if the recommendations were adequate to avoid negative nitrogen balance. Methods: Using a retrospective, cohort study design, patients requiring PMV who had orders for 24-h urine collections for urea nitrogen (24hrUUN) were included. Energy and protein intake was calculated from chart documentation of dietary intake for the 24-h period during which patients underwent a 24hrUUN. Nitrogen intake was estimated from protein intake. Dietary intake was compared to RD-recommendations to determine the percentage of RD-recommendations achieved. Nitrogen balance was calculated as nitrogen intake minus nitrogen loss, with negative balance categorized as less than −1. Results: Subjects (n = 16) were 38% male and 75% African American (mean age 61.5 ± 3.2 years; mean BMI 27.5 ± 2.5 kg/m2). Duration of LTACH hospitalization was 26.5 (6–221) days. Mean energy and protein intake was 21.7 ± 2.9 kcal/kg/d and 1.1 ± 0.1 g/kg/d, respectively, which corresponded to 86% of both RD energy and protein recommendations. Ten patients achieved a positive nitrogen balance (mean 0.9 ± 1.1 g). In addition, there was a positive linear relationship between protein intake and nitrogen balance (r = 0.59, p = 0.016). Conclusion: Survivors of critical illness requiring PMV achieved a high percentage of RD-recommended protein and calories, and prevented a negative nitrogen balance in a majority of patients. Increasing protein intake can prevent a negative nitrogen balance. Future studies should evaluate whether these patients are able to maintain a steady state of nitrogen intake and excretion over time and how this affects time to and/or success of weaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-453
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Nutrition ESPEN
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Caloric intake
  • Critical illness
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Nutritional therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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