Refeeding syndrome: A potentially fatal condition but remains underdiagnosed and undertreated

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe two cases of successfully prevented refeeding syndrome in a high-risk group of patients. Methods: Case 1 was a 70-y-old woman who presented with a 4-mo history of poor dietary intake and ill health due to a connective tissue disease leading to myositis and dysphagia and complicated by respiratory failure needing mechanical ventilation. Twelve hours after starting nasogastric tube feeding, she developed a cardiac arrest from which she was successfully resuscitated. Repeated attempts to wean her from the ventilator failed. Case 2 was a 15-y-old girl who was readmitted after a total colectomy for severe ulcerative colitis with diarrhea and vomiting leading to significant weight loss. Her body mass index was 11.4 kg/m2. Results: In case 1, after consultation by the clinical nutrition team, the diagnosis of refeeding syndrome was made and the patient was duly started on a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, multivitamin and trace-element supplements, and electrolyte infusion. Subsequently she was successfully weaned from the ventilator. In case 2, further investigation by the clinical nutrition team revealed low baseline electrolyte concentrations including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphate and low serum albumin. Her low body mass index and baseline electrolyte concentrations put her at high risk of developing refeeding syndrome. She was initially started on low-calorie feeding, multivitamin and minerals, and her electrolytes were carefully monitored. She made a good recovery. Conclusion: Refeeding syndrome is a life-threatening, underdiagnosed, treatable condition but there is a need for a wider awareness of the condition among health professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-606
Number of pages3
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Enteral
  • Parenteral
  • Refeeding syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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