Advertisement

How is nutrition related to head injury recovery?

The moment a patient with a severe head injury is wheeled into the emergency room of a trauma center, doctors rush to provide life-saving measures. They begin monitoring pressure inside the skull and, if necessary, operate to lower it. They treat low blood pressure, make sure oxygen levels in the blood are sufficient, and medicate to prevent seizures. These procedures are all spelled out in a set of "best practice" guidelines established in 1995, which have helped dramatically lower death rates from traumatic brain injury (TBI), said NewYork-Presbyterian neurosurgeon Roger Härtl, MD.

A recent study by Dr. Härtl and colleagues showed that another measure, which had always been something of an afterthought, was also of vital importance: ensuring that patients receive nutrients in the first few days following their injury.

Dr. Härtl and his colleagues discovered the significance of early nutrition almost by accident. They were analyzing data from a six-year study of how well New York State trauma centers were complying with the TBI guidelines when this finding leapt out: "We found almost a linear relationship between nutrition and mortality," Dr. Härtl said. In other words, patients who did not receive food – commonly through a tube inserted in their stomachs – within the first five days of their brain injury were twice as likely to die, and those who did not receive feeding within seven days were four times as likely to die.

The study also made clear that, not only is it better to get nutrients into patients as early as possible, but also that the more nutrients they get the better. The best outcomes were in patients who received at least 100 percent of the daily recommended number of calories for someone their weight – but up to 200 percent of that amount was even better, he said.

Continue Learning about Head Injuries

What should I do if my child has a concussion while playing sports?
Chippenham Hospital - HCA VirginiaChippenham Hospital - HCA Virginia
Children should be removed from the game right away, and parents should be aware of and look out for...
More Answers
How long can the effects of post concussion syndrome last?
Harry G. Kerasidis, MDHarry G. Kerasidis, MD
Symptoms and effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) may persist for days, weeks, months or even y...
More Answers
What symptoms should I watch for in my child after a head injury?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
After a head injury, be on the lookout for a whole range of symptoms in your child: prolonged headac...
More Answers
Protect Your Noggin With a Bike Helmet
Protect Your Noggin With a Bike Helmet

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.