Summarized by Teja Makkapati, MD

January 2024

When someone ends up in the hospital, there is a high chance they might not be getting the right amount of nutrition, especially if they have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs require extra nutrients for the brain to heal properly. Studies suggest that a large number of hospitalized patients, about 20-50%, end up malnourished, however there is not much research on how this specifically affects TBI patients.

For people with TBIs , their bodies go into overdrive trying to heal the brain. This means they need more calories and protein than usual. The study “Determination of calorie and protein intake among acute and sub-acute traumatic brain injury patients” looked at the dietary habits of 50 TBI patients to see how well they were eating during their hospital stay. They looked at their daily food intake, considering things like body mass index (BMI), age, and gender in their calculations.

The results showed that the more severe the TBI, the less people ate. Even though eating improved a bit over time, it still was no’t enough to meet their calorie needs. The most common reasons for this are pain, discomfort, and emotional issues after the injury which makes individuals want to eat less.

In summary, people with TBIs are not getting the nutrition they need, and those with more severe injuries are at a higher risk of developing malnutrition. This is a population at high risk of being malnourished and more studies are needed to find ways to help these patients get the right nutrition during their hospital stay for a quicker recovery.