Physiol. Res. 52: 31-37, 2003


Enteral Nutrition and Hepatosplanchnic Region in Critically Ill Patients - Friends or Foes?


Intensive Care Unit, First Department of Internal Medicine, Charles University Hospital Pilsen, Czech Republic

Received February 20, 2002
Accepted April 24, 2002

Enteral nutrition (EN) is a preferred way of feeding in critically ill patients unless obvious contraindications such as ileus or active gastrointestinal bleeding are present. Early enteral nutrition as compared to delayed EN or total parenteral nutrition decreases morbidity in postsurgical and trauma patients. The hepatosplanchnic region plays a pivotal role in the pathophysiology of sepsis and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. The beneficial effects of EN on splanchnic perfusion and energy metabolism have been documented both in healthy volunteers and animal models of sepsis, hemorrhagic shock and burns. By contrast, EN may increase splanchnic metabolic demands, which in turn may lead to oxygen and/or energy demand/supply mismatch, especially when hyperemic response to EN is not preserved. Therefore, the timing of initiation and the dose of EN in patients with circulatory failure requiring vasoactive drugs are a matter of controversy. Interestingly, the results of recent clinical studies suggest that early enteral nutrition may not be harmful even in patients with circulatory compromise. Nevertheless, possible onset of serious complications, the non-occlusive bowel necrosis in particular, have to be kept in mind. Unfortunately, there is only a limited number of clinically applicable monitoring tools for the effects of enteral nutrition in critically ill patients.

Key words
Enteral nutrition • Hepatosplanchnic region • Critically ill • Sepsis • Nonocclusive bowel necrosis

Reprint requests
Richard Rokyta Jr., M.D., Intensive Care Unit, First Department of Internal Medicine, Charles University Hospital Plzen, Alej Svobody 80, 304 60 Plzen, Czech Republic, Fax: +420-19-7533100, E-mail:

© 2003 by the Institute of Physiology, Czech Academy of Sciences