What is Severe Malnutrition?

Liver failure, non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection (NTM, aka MAI), cancer, HIV or other chronic infections can cause significant unintended weight loss and medical instability related to malnutrition.  

Many patients with serious illness or infections learn that their weight is too low to be eligible for a life-saving surgery or to begin additional necessary treatment. Due to their malnourished status, these patients generally can’t simply “eat more” or “gain weight” on their own. In fact, some patients may be at risk for a life-threatening medical complication known as refeeding syndrome if they begin eating too much or too quickly in an effort to gain weight. 

For more than 20 years, ACUTE has provided medically-supervised weight restoration and concurrent treatment for medical diagnoses and resultant complications of severe malnutrition. ACUTE gives patients hope for survival and recovery. 

Symptoms of Severe Malnutrition

  • You have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions: liver failure, non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection (NTM, aka MAI), cancer, HIV
  • You are at a severely low weight (BMI <15, ie. < 70% of Ideal Body Weight)
  • You are experiencing severe, uncomfortable and life-threatening medical complications from malnutrition
  • You have been told that you cannot have a life-saving surgery or begin treatment due to your low weight and/or severe malnutrition

Severe Malnutrition Facts

Progressive malnutrition from illness and/or infection adversely affects almost every system in the body. 

Refeeding syndrome is a potentially fatal metabolic disturbance that occurs as a result of reinstitution of nutrition in people who are severely malnourished.  

Local healthcare systems are generally not trained to safely weight-restore malnourished patients with co-occurring illness or infection. 

Patients must achieve minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) requirements to undergo life-saving surgeries and treatments including: 

  • Organ transplant
  • Infection treatment
  • Chemotherapy and radiation
  • HIV anti-retroviral therapy

For most patients suffering from serious illness or infection, this simple prescription of gaining weight is not only unlikely but potentially even deadly. 

Many patients suffering with malnutrition from serious illness or infection may benefit from concurrent emotional treatment and support to manage the stress of living with major illness. 

Learn More About Severe Malnutrition

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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