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Hospital using nutritional supplement to prep patients before surgery

By Katie Demeria

A new nutritional supplement available at Winchester Medical Center could drastically improve patients' recovery time.

Impact, a specialized nutrition drink developed by Nestle, was introduced to the center's surgical programs in January.

Corporate Director of the Nutrition Therapy Department Susan Lessar and Medical Director of the Bariatric Program Troy Glembot proposed using Impact in April 2012.

"It was developed at Winchester Medical Center to optimally prepare patients nutritionally and physiologically for surgery if they're having particular types of surgical procedures or diagnoses," Glembot said.

Those receiving certain types of operations, such as major spine or bariatric surgery, have a higher risk of complications, which could cost a great deal, Glembot added.

"There is a lot of evidence to suggest that we can reduce the number of complications by providing nutritional supplements before surgery," he continued. "Patients really like this concept, the idea of doing something before surgery to help reduce risks is something patients believe in."

Patients with certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer, can also benefit from the nutritional supplement.

Impact is a vanilla-flavored drink that comes in 8-ounce cartons. Patients are encouraged to drink three cartons every day during the five days preceding their scheduled surgeries.

According to Lessar, 30 to 50 percent of hospitalized patients in the United States are malnourished.

"So these patients are coming to us out of our community malnourished, and then we operate on them and put even more stress on their bodies," she said. "And if they are malnourished with that added stress, they're more likely to have negative outcomes."

Impact is designed to give patients a great deal of the nutrition they need in a moderate amount of liquid. The supplement contains omega-3 fatty acids, arginine and dietary nucleotides.

All those ingredients, Lessar said, have been proven to significantly benefit patients, minimizing the amount of time they must stay in the hospital recovering and reducing the risk of complications.

"An intern we have actually created the diet that patients would have to follow if they wanted to eat the same nutrients that they get from Impact," Lessar said. "It was incredible how much food was on it. This is a much easier way for them to get what they need."

Suanne Thurmon, vice president of Cooperate Service Lines, was the administrator Lessar referenced as responsible for approving the budget that included the cost of Impact.

"The reason we asked the hospital to pay for it was because we didn't want the cost to prohibit any patient from using it," Lessar said. "And really, if you look at our cost, compared to the cost incurred if a patient stays for one extra day, then we actually save money."

Though Winchester Medical Center was the first hospital in the country to start using Impact, the state of Washington also recently started a program that uses the product called "Strong for Surgery."

The practice of nutritionally preparing patients before their operations is relatively new to the United States, but it has been practiced throughout European countries for years.

"When you look at the countries in Europe that offer this sort of stuff, they're typically countries that have national healthcare," Glembot said. "So the governments are able to set standards in a manner more rigid than can happen here in the U.S., which doesn't make it better or worse, it just makes it different."

Because the center has included the cost of Impact into its budget, patients will not have to worry about whether or not their insurance will cover the supplements.

"We're not trying to burden the patients at all with any additional expenses," Glembot said.

The statistics revealing how Impact has affected the patients will not be available until June 2014, when Lessar and Glembot will have an adequate sample size to look at the data.

"But in the literature the benefit is demonstrated over and over," Lessar said. She added that she is confident that the center will see an equally positive outcome.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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