Nutritional Support to Patients in Need at the RAH - RAH Research Fund
News 28 March 2017

Nutritional Support to Patients in Need at the RAH

Committed to ensuring patient care at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) is the best it can be for you and your family, we’re always proud to showcase research that is paving the way in patient care advancements.

Contributing to these advancements is Lee-anne Chapple, who recently submitted her PhD with the University of Adelaide that will lead to better outcomes for patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the RAH during and after their stay.

A qualified dietitian, Lee-anne has been exploring practices surrounding nutrition therapy to critically ill patients on a long term basis, with a focus on those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“Patients admitted to ICU with a TBI are at a particular risk of not getting the nutrition they need to assist in their recovery,” Lee-anne explained.

“The problem I found is when patients leave ICU and go onto the hospital ward, they are not getting the calories or protein they need. This may be because a TBI is like a silent injury, you can’t see it like a burn, but the nutritional requirement is still quite high.”

 Lee-anne loves working in an area that can improve the health of patients in need at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Lee-anne loves working in an area that can improve the health of patients in need at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Lee-anne conducted her research with a group of patients who stayed in ICU for 13 days and then in hospital for a number of days, so they had large cumulative nutritional deficits over this time.

“I used an ultrasound technique to look at how thick their quadriceps muscle was and I measured it every week to see how it changed. I found they lost a lot of muscle in ICU, and when I followed them up three months later, the muscle still wasn’t back to the size when they first came in, it really had a long-term effect,” Lee-anne said.

“My research demonstrates that these patients with ongoing nutritional deficits, such as those with a TBI, need to be identified on the post-ICU hospital ward and intervention strategies need to be put in place. These could include focussed staffing and resources, and better ways to monitor the effect of inadequate nutrition, such as ultrasound of muscle size.

“Nutritional intake needs to be considered across the entire hospital stay as opposed to shorter, more immediate periods of intake.”

Lee-anne has presented her research to staff in ICU and the neurosurgery ward, where the majority of TBI patients will go after leaving ICU.

She has also presented this research at conferences around Australia and internationally.

“My findings have been really well received and I’m excited to see changes being made in this area to improve the outcomes for our patients both at the RAH and beyond.”

Lee-anne is a member of the Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Translating Nutritional Science to Good Health, who you can feel proud to support through the RAH Research Fund. The CRE seeks to encourage and promote clinical research in the area of nutritional physiology to better the community for you and your family.