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Malnutrition occurs when you do not get enough calories or nutrients to keep you healthy. Nutrients include protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Vitamins and minerals may be needed to replace vitamins and minerals your body needs. They may be given in your IV, as a shot, or as a pill.
  • Appetite stimulants are medicines that help improve your appetite so you will want to eat more.


  • Blood tests may be done to find out if your body is low in certain nutrients.
  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats.
  • Intake and output of liquids may need to be tracked. Your healthcare providers may need to track the amount of liquid you are getting. They may also need to know how much you are urinating.
  • A urine sample may be needed. For this test you need to urinate into a small container. You will be given instructions on how to clean your genital area before you urinate. Do not touch the inside of the cup. Follow instructions on where to place the cup of urine when you are done.
  • A chest x-ray is used to check your lungs and heart. Healthcare providers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection, such as pneumonia.


  • Increased calories and nutrients will be needed. A dietitian may help you plan larger, healthy meals. If you have trouble eating larger meals, eat small meals throughout the day. You may need to include snacks between meals. You may need to eat or drink a nutrition supplement if you have trouble eating the right kinds and amounts of food.
  • Nutrition support may be needed if you are not able to eat food normally. You may need to get nutrition through a feeding tube or a catheter:
    • A nasogastric (NG) tube is put into your nose, and passes down your throat until it reaches your stomach. Food and medicine may be given through an NG tube if you cannot take anything by mouth. The tube may instead be attached to suction if healthcare providers need to keep your stomach empty.
    • PEG tubes and J-tubes are small, flexible tubes. The tubes are put through a small incision in your abdomen. The end of a PEG tube goes into your stomach. The end of a J-tube goes into your small intestine. You may have a GJ tube put in. This tube goes into both your stomach and small intestine. These tubes are used to give you liquids, food, and medicine. The tubes may also be used to let air or fluids out of your stomach.
    • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) provides your body with nutrition such as protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes fat (lipids). TPN is used when you have problems with eating or digesting food. TPN is usually put into your body through a large IV catheter, such as a central line. You may need TPN for several days or longer.


Malnutrition usually develops in stages. Malnutrition may make your body weak and cause health problems such as trouble fighting infections and slowed healing. Severe malnutrition may cause heart problems, breathing problems, and kidney problems. It can also cause changes in the level of chemicals in your blood called electrolytes. If untreated, severe malnutrition can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Malnutrition (Inpatient Care)

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