Death resulting from overzealous total parenteral nutrition: The refeeding syndrome revisited

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Commentary is provided on the pivotal paper by Weinsier and Krumdieck from 1981 describing 2 patients who developed profound and fatal refeeding syndrome following initiation of aggressive total parenteral nutrition. This classic description was among the first to describe the overwhelming cardiovascular and pulmonary manifestations that can accompany parenteral refeeding with carbohydrate in chronically malnourished patients. The syndrome has also been described with oral and enteral nutrition. One of the hallmarks of the syndrome is hypophosphatemia. Since 1981, dosing schemes for addressing hypophosphatemia have been refined. Other manifestations of the syndrome include other electrolyte abnormalities such as hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia, hyperglycemia, fluid and sodium retention, and neurologic and hematologic complications. Case reports of refeeding syndrome continue to be published, particularly in the anorexia nervosa population. Stressed, critically ill patients may be at risk of refeeding following short periods of fasting; hypophosphatemia is commonly encountered in this situation. It behooves the current nutrition support practitioner to keep in mind the types of patients at risk of refeeding syndrome and to approach refeeding of such patients with caution and careful monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-171
Number of pages6
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Hypophosphatemia
  • Protein-energy malnutrition
  • Refeeding syndrome


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