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Role of the Dietician in Cardio-Thoracic Surgery

Many patients who come to the Mater Hospital for cardiac surgery have a history of  too much cholesterol or high triglycerides in their blood these fats are also known as lipids and contribute to heart disease. The main treatment for raised lipids is to follow a lipid lowering or cardioprotective diet (there is more information on this in the section on post discharge below) and the use of statin drugs.

But when patients are admitted for surgery they may experience weight loss and reduced appetite. This is due to a variety of factors such as anxiety, pain, medication side effects, constipation, immobility etc. Also extra nutrients are used by the patient for wound healing.

Therefore while in hospital and until your wounds have healed you will need extra nutrients and can relax the lipid lowering diet. Most patients find it easier to meet their needs by eating a little and often by having snacks such as milk, plain biscuits, yogurt, scone or banana between meals.

Patients who are unable to eat enough after their operation will be referred to the dietitian. After reviewing the patient two things usually happen, either the patient is recommended:

1. A special diet including meal replacement drinks (which are like milk shakes with extra vitamins) to meet their requirements or

2. To be fed through a feeding tube until the patient is well enough to eat adequately. This is a thin flexible tube which passes from the nose to the stomach. A liquid feed containing all the nutrients a patient requires is pumped through the tube. This takes the pressure to eat from the patient for part of their hospital stay while allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of their recovery.

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