Treatment of a critical illness requires close, constant attention by a team of healthcare professionals with multiple areas of specialty. It also usually involves the use of specialized equipment like monitors, feeding tubes, intravenous (IV) tubes, catheters, and breathing machines, which may be necessary to keep the patient alive.1 For these reasons, treatment of critical illnesses is most often done in an intensive care unit (ICU) or trauma centre.

While in the intensive care unit, the patient may not be able to eat food by mouth because of a breathing tube or because it is not safe to eat by mouth. In this case, nutrition may be provided by a tube into the stomach or intestine. This is called a tube feeding or enteral nutrition. Tube feeding formulas are designed to completely replace the oral diet so they include carbohydrate, protein, fat and vitamins and minerals. They may also contain nutrients that are important during illness like omega three fatty acids (fish oil). Alternately, the body may have a hard time breaking down nutrients so a formula that has predigested protein and easily absorbed fat may be necessary. The healthcare professional team will decide which formula is right for the patient’s needs and their situation.

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Meet the ICU Care Team

The healthcare teams involved in treating critical illnesses can be quite large. The core team is usually made up of critical care doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists, and dietitians. Physical therapists, social workers, and pastoral staff are also often involved.

Source: Torpy, MD, J. (2009). Intensive Care Units. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(12), 1304.



Whether you’re a patient or a loved one, you may feel a lot of hard emotions when dealing with critical illness. Stress, worry, sadness,fear and anxiety can exist to varying degrees, and it’s normal to feel this way. Ask your hospital staff or a social worker to help you work through your concerns.



Predigestedformulas require minimal digestion and may be easier to tolerate by patients with gastrointestinal (GI) issues.