In a nation of plenty, why are hospital patients starving?
Scottsdale, Arizona (PRWEB) July 31, 2013
Nearly a third of patients are malnourished upon hospital admission in the U.S. Leading nutritional expert and dietician, Dr. Martina Cartwright, is providing seminars around the country to address and rectify the problem.
Malnutrition is not just a nursing home phenomenon. Nearly a third of patients are malnourished upon hospital admission in the U.S. Dr. Martina Cartwright, a leading expert in hospital malnutrition says its time to address the skeleton in the closet.
A recent study indicated that one in three hospitalized patients is admitted with malnutrition. Most at risk are Medicare patients, with over 50% suffering from poor nutrition. Once in the hospital, nutritional status declines even more. So in a nation of plenty, why are hospitalized patients starving?
"Many are quick to blame poor quality hospital food when in fact it is the patient’s medical condition that worsens their nutritional well-being," said Dr. Martina Cartwright, PhD, RD an adjunct faculty professor at the University of Arizona and expert on the topic of hospital malnutrition.
Poor appetite, nausea, the inability to chew or swallow, lack of assistance to eat, and requirement for tube feeding are factors that contribute to poor in-hospital nutrition. In addition, patients pre-admission nutrition may also be an issue, "The patient may be eating plenty of calories, but not getting enough protein or vitamins and minerals, this is also a type of malnutrition," declared Dr. Cartwright who has treated morbidly obese patients labeled malnourished because they eat little protein or essential nutrients.
Poor hospital nutrition can have long-term consequences for the patient too. According to the Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition, under-recognized hospital malnutrition contributes to poor patient outcomes, longer length of stay, increased hospital costs and more re-admissions.
Cartwright said in a recent university presentation that, "Malnutrition, especially in older adults, leads to longer hospital stays and more complications like poor wound healing and weakness."
Patients leave the hospital only to return within days with preventable complications like infections. These malnutrition-related conditions also significantly increase hospital and taxpayer costs.
Not surprisingly, prolonged bed rest coupled with malnutrition leads to profound muscular weakness, a leading factor for falls among the elderly. Dr. Cartwright said, "I see many older people re-admitted for fractures from falls related to sarcopenia, a type of muscular weakness that occurs with age. The condition is worsened with bed rest and accelerated in the elderly."
What can at-risk individuals do to prevent or treat malnutrition? Recent studies suggest consuming high-protein oral nutrition supplements, like those advertised on television, can improve patient outcomes. But according to Cartwright, "Clinicians really need to address their in-hospital malnutrition screening practices and work together as a team to provide nutrition intervention to patients during and after their hospitalization."
Martina M. Cartwright, PhD, RD is a nationally recognized critical care nutrition expert specializing in identification and prevention of hospital-related malnutrition. She is the only doctoral-trained dietitian specializing in the recognition and treatment of ICU Acquired Weakness (ICU-AW).
Dr. Cartwright is the owner of Beacon Science Inc, a consulting firm based in Scottsdale Arizona and has over 20 years experience as a clinician, researcher and scientist in hospital, academia and pharmaceutical industry settings. She has several published articles in peer reviewed medical journals and is a keynote speaker at critical care medical meetings. Dr. Cartwright is a member of the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) and adjunct professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona.