Background: Recent evidence suggests that intestinal dysfunction has a role in sustaining the systemic inflammatory response in acute pancreatitis and may be ameliorated by the introduction of enteral nutrition. This study therefore assessed the effect of early enteral nutrition on the systemic inflammatory response in patients with prognostically severe acute pancreatitis.
Methods: Patients with prognostically severe acute pancreatitis within 72 h of disease onset were randomized to receive either enteral nutrition or conventional therapy consisting of a nil-by-mouth regimen. Serum interleukin (IL) 6, soluble tumour necrosis factor receptor I (sTNFRI) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were used as markers of the inflammatory response. Intestinal function was assessed using a differential sugar permeability technique.
Results: Of 27 patients, 13 received enteral nutrition. A median of 21 (range 0-100) per cent of calorific requirements was delivered over the first 4 days by enteral nutrition. There were no significant complications of enteral nutrition. The introduction of enteral nutrition did not affect the serum concentrations of IL-6 (P = 0.28), sTNFRI (P = 0.53) or CRP (P = 0.62) over the first 4 days of the study. Although there were no significant differences in intestinal permeability between the two patient groups at admission (chi2 = 2.33, d.f. = 1, P = 0.13), by day 4 abnormal intestinal permeability occurred more frequently in patients receiving enteral nutrition (chi2 = 4.94, d.f. = 1, P = 0.03)
Conclusion: Early enteral nutrition did not ameliorate the inflammatory response in patients with prognostically severe acute pancreatitis. Furthermore, it did not have a beneficial effect on intestinal permeability. Presented in part to the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in Leeds, UK, November 1998 and at Digestive Disease Week in Orlando, Florida, USA, May 1999