Background. The role of perioperative nutrition in surgical patients remains controversial. We performed a Clinical Practice Improvement (CPI) study that, while controlling for severity of illness, explored the relationship between the timing and amount of parenteral or enteral nutrition, with two outcomes: length of stay (LOS) and total charges in patients undergoing open intestinal operations. Materials and methods. A CPI study was conducted at eight hospitals to determine which process steps were associated with shorter LOS and lower charges. Hospital charts were abstracted for over 800 components of detailed patient, process, and outcome measures. Severity of illness was measured multiple times during the stay using the Comprehensive Severity Index, a disease-specific physiologic severity measurement instrument. Data on 1007 patients undergoing intestinal operations, 183 of whom received nutritional support, were then analyzed using multiple regression procedures. Early (within 48 h of surgery) and sufficient (60% of protein and calorie goals) nutrition, patient variables, and a severity of illness measure were included as independent variables and LOS and hospital charges were used as dependent variables. Results. Mean patient age was 58 years. After controlling for severity of illness, patients who received early and sufficient nutrition had significantly shorter LOS (11.9 days) and lower charges ($34,602) than patients who received early (13.3; $36,452), sufficient (14.6, $39,883), or neither early nor sufficient (14.8, $38,578) (P ≤ 0.0001 for early and sufficient versus all other groups). Conclusions. CPI methodology provides a detailed view of the actual relationship between the timing and the amount of nutrition with LOS and hospital charge outcomes.
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