Nutritional support practices at an intensive care unit in Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Abdullah E Laher
  • Jared McDowall
  • Mikayla van Welie
  • Domenic M Malinga
  • Alistair J Craythorne
  • Brandon J van Aardt
  • Tasneem Dalvie
  • Guy A Richards


Objectives: Nutritional support is a fundamental component of holistic patient care in the intensive care unit (ICU). There is a paucity of local data pertaining to nutritional support practices at ICUs in South Africa. The aim of this study was to determine nutritional support practices at an academic hospital ICU in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Methods: In this cross-sectional, descriptive and retrospective study, a simple random sampling method was utilised to select 50 data collection days from a three-month period (1 August–31 October 2018). Data relevant to the study were extracted from the ICU charts of patients who received formulae-based enteral and/or parenteral nutrition on the selected days. Charts were categorised into acute phase days (≤ 72 hours from ICU admission) and recovery phase days (> 72 hours from ICU admission).
Results: A total of 387 ICU charts were included in the final sample, comprising 114 acute phase and 273 recovery phase days. Overall, enteral nutrition was prescribed on 296 (76.5%) chart days while parenteral nutrition was prescribed on 111 (28.7%) chart days. The median daily fluid balance was approximately 600 ml positive. Target protein and calorie intake was achieved on 67 (17.3%) and 110 (28.4%) chart days respectively.
Conclusion: Although protein and calorie intake was suboptimal in comparison with the recommended targets, it is in keeping with general international trends. Regular audits, training of staff, attention to minimising feeding interruptions and encouraging the timely initiation of enteral nutrition are recommended interventions that may be useful in achieving nutritional targets.
Keywords: enteral nutrition, parenteral nutrition, ICU nutrition, protein intake, calorie intake, fluid balance

How to Cite
Laher, A., McDowall, J., van Welie, M., Malinga, D., Craythorne, A., van Aardt, B., Dalvie, T., & Richards, G. (2023). Nutritional support practices at an intensive care unit in Johannesburg, South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36(2), 45–50. Retrieved from
Original Research