Background: Poor nutritional status is common among patients awaiting orthotopic liver transplantation and is associated with poor outcome.
Methods: This prospective randomized controlled trial examined the effect of pretransplant nutritional supplementation on the outcome of patients undergoing liver transplantation. Of 82 consecutive patients with mid-arm muscle circumference <25th percentile, 42 received enteral supplementation, and the remainder acted as the control group. The supplemented group received a calorie-dense enteral feed taken daily (in addition to diet) until transplantation. Nutritional status was monitored by upper arm anthropometric measurements and handgrip strength. Dietary intake was calculated from 5-day food diaries.
Results: Supplementation improved mid-arm circumference, mid-arm muscle circumference, and grip strength. Pretransplant nutritional status was not associated with posttransplant sepsis or major complications. Preoperative grip strength of <85% of normal values was predictive of increased incidence of posttransplant major complications. Supplementation did not affect outcome, although there were more deaths in the control group (seven deaths before and two deaths after transplant) than there were in the supplemented group (two deaths before and three deaths after transplant). There was no difference in overall survival (P = 0.075).
Conclusions: Enteral supplementation improved some parameters of nutritional status pretransplant. Dietary intake of patients in the two groups was similar at transplant. Nutritional supplementation has not increased nutritional intake, although this may reflect the importance of regular dietetic input and support, rather than suggesting that nutritional supplementation is ineffective. Supplementation had no effect on outcome of liver transplantation.