A neuroscience dietitian is responsible for seeing to the nutritional needs of patients who have had a brain injury or stroke.
When the supply of blood to the brain is cut off or reduced, a stroke can occur. Trauma or a spontaneous bleed can result in injury to the brain. A third of patients who have had a stroke, and a quarter-to-nearly-half of patients with traumatic brain injury, have a degree of swallowing difficulty. Following a swallow assessment by a speech and language therapist, the dietitian will advise on ensuring an adequate nutrition intake to maintain or improve the patient's nutritional status.
Some patients may not be able to swallow safely, and may need to be fed via a tube initially. The dietitian is responsible for prescribing the correct feed and monitoring the patient's progress on the feed. As a patient’s swallow improves, the dietitian will gradually reduce the volume of feed prescribed, and the patients will be encouraged to eat and drink more orally. It may be necessary to modify the texture of food and drinks to make it safer to swallow e.g. pureed food and/or thickened drinks. This is to prevent food getting into the windpipe and lungs (called aspiration), which can lead to chest infections and pneumonia.