Critically ill patients invariably require nutritional intervention. Traditionally, enteral nutrition has not been widely employed in this patient population. This is due in part to the success of present-day parenteral nutrition, and to difficulties encountered with enteral feeding. Recent evidence has demonstrated that enteral is preferable to parenteral nutrition in terms of cost, complications, gut mucosal maintenance, and metabolic and immune function. Enterally administered nutritional support can and should be utilised as the preferred route of nourishment for the critically ill. The appropriate choice of access and formula, as well as a rational strategy for implementation, should improve the likelihood of success. This article describes the unique features of critical illness as they pertain to nutritional support, the benefits of enteral nutrition, and the obstacles to success, and offers suggestions which may improve the ability to provide nutrients adequately via the intestinal tract.
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