“The metabolism goes into hyper drive, trying to heal the wounds, and the body looks for nutrients wherever it can,” said Dr. Larry Jones, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Burn Center. “If the patient doesn’t take in enough calories and protein, it can cause muscle loss and slow healing significantly.”
Often patients with significant burns do not feel like eating. Researchers have found that patients with even less than 20% burns may suffer from adverse physical side effects due to the nutrition risk associated with the depth of the burn, age, comorbidities and existing malnutrition.
Patients with significant burns are exposed to a high protein nutrition diet through a feeding tube within six hours of arrival. The diet consists of proteins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients to help heal wounds. Burn patients need about 140 percent of their normal calories and about four times the protein. Nurses monitor daily weight and calorie counts and the team assesses and adjusts tube feeding rates weekly.
“We talk about this daily, for each individual patient: how many calories they need, what they’re taking, if they’re not taking enough then how do we supplement, how we can encourage them to get the calories they need. It’s a very important part of the recovery,” Jones said.
“It takes a burn anywhere from 12 to 18 months to completely heal, microscopically. So the nutrition support, we feel, is important for at least that long,” Jones said.