Protein Intake After Surgery

Protein deficiency is frequently observed among patients admitted in hospitals. According to a study published in the "British Medical Journal" in April 1994, almost 40 percent of surgical and medical patients are malnourished at the time of admission and experience further nutritional depletion during their stay in the hospital 3. Undergoing surgery places patients under tremendous metabolic stress, and extra protein is important to help deal with the increased metabolic activity of wound healing.


Proteins are an important part of your body. Thousands of new proteins are manufactured in your body every day and are made up of amino acids. Your body uses 13 amino acids but cannot make nine of them, which are considered to be essential. The body’s requirements for these essential amino acids are met by eating protein in your diet. Complete proteins, like animal protein, contain all of the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins, like plant protein, are deficient in certain essential amino acids. Vegetarians should consume more than one type of protein in their diet to ensure adequate intake.

Effect of Surgery

Surgical patients show an increase in production of protein. However, even this increased rate fails to meet the amino acid requirement for replacing the skeletal muscle tissue which has been broken down during surgery. According to a study published in "Spine" medical journal in November 1996, the rate of post-operative complications is considerably lowered when the nutritional status of the patient is adequate 1. Protein supplementation decreases the healing time and prevents the loss of skeletal muscle tissue.

Proteins in Post-Surgical Patients

Surgery causes skeletal muscle tissue to be broken down in order to release amino acids. These amino acids are then transported to the site of injury. They promote wound healing, strengthen the immune system and support vital organs. During healing, new cells are produced to repair the damaged cells, and new tissue and blood vessels also develop. These activities require proteins. If the diet is deficient in proteins, the post surgical recovery is delayed.

Post-Operative Phase

On an average, a patient requires 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight per day. A protein-rich diet is essential to counter the negative protein balance that occurs because of surgery. Ideally, you should choose a slow digesting protein. According to a December 1997 study released by The National Academy of Sciences, this helps to maintain a prolonged period of elevated plasma amino acids 2. This, in turn, increases the periods of protein synthesis leading to accelerated repair of damaged tissue and faster wound healing.