Physician-delivered malnutrition: Why do patients receive nothing by mouth or a clear liquid diet in a university hospital setting?

Glen A. Franklin, Stephen A. McClave, Ryan T. Hurt, Cynthia C. Lowen, Allyson E. Stout, Lisa L. Stogner, Nicole L. Priest, Mary E. Haffner, Karl R. Deibel, Dana L. Bose, Barbara S. Blandford, Tyler Hermann, Mary E. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Traditional practices of placing patients nil per os (NPO) or on clear liquid diet (CLD) deter delivery of optimal nutrition care and are not always supported by sound physiologic principles. Objective: This perspective survey evaluated the incidence of this practice, the reasons for such orders, and the response to intervention by the Multidisciplinary Nutrition Team (MNT). Methods: All patients admitted to University of Louisville Hospital were monitored by MNT dietitians and were candidates for the study if they were placed NPO upon CLD for ≥3 days. The MNT determined appropriateness of diet orders. Results: Out of 1192 admissions, 22.6% of the patients (n = 262, 61% male, mean age 46.1 years) were found to be NPO or on CLD for ≥3 days (mean 5.2 days NPO, 1.04 days CLD), and were entered in the study. Uncertainty regarding the reason for the specific diet order occurred more often when patients were placed on CLD than when made NPO (32.1% vs. 15.0% of cases, respectively, P < 0.05). NPO diet orders were more often deemed appropriate by the MNT than were orders for CLD (58.6% vs. 25.6%, respectively, P < 0.05). Compliance with MNT recommendations was low at 40.0%. Conclusions: Despite an active MNT, 22% of patients were made NPO or placed on CLD for a prolonged period of time. More than a third of diet orders for NPO and two thirds of orders for CLD were inappropriate and poorly justified. Improving the adequacy of nutrition therapy is hampered by noncompliance with MNT recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2011


  • clear liquid diet
  • enteral nutrition
  • nothing by mouth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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