Management of Refeeding Syndrome in Medical Inpatients

J Clin Med. 2019 Dec 13; 8(12):2202. doi: 10.3390/jcm8122202.
Reber, E., Friedli, N., Vasiloglou, M. F., Schuetz, P., & Stanga, Z.


Refeeding syndrome (RFS) is the metabolic response to the switch from starvation to a fed state in the initial phase of nutritional therapy in patients who are severely malnourished or metabolically stressed due to severe illness. It is characterized by increased serum glucose, electrolyte disturbances (particularly hypophosphatemia, hypokalemia, and hypomagnesemia), vitamin depletion (especially vitamin B1 thiamine), fluid imbalance, and salt retention, with resulting impaired organ function and cardiac arrhythmias. The awareness of the medical and nursing staff is often too low in clinical practice, leading to under-diagnosis of this complication, which often has an unspecific clinical presentation. This review provides important insights into the RFS, practical recommendations for the management of RFS in the medical inpatient population (excluding eating disorders) based on consensus opinion and on current evidence from clinical studies, including risk stratification, prevention, diagnosis, and management and monitoring of nutritional and fluid therapy.

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List of abbreviations

DGEM German Society for Nutritional Medicine (German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin)
GESKES  Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (German Gesellschaft für klinische Ernährung der Schweiz) 
ESPEN European Society of Clinicl Nutrition and Metabolism