Aims: to determine if postoperative feeding of head and neck cancer patients, using an enteral diet supplemented with arginine, improves immunological and nutritional status, and clinical outcome, i.e., reduces postoperative infectious/wound complications and length of stay, when compared with an isocaloric, isonitrogenous control diet.
Methods: at operation 44 patients were randomized into two groups to receive: a) an enriched diet (n=23);b) an isocaloric, isonitrogenous control diet (n=21). Thirteen patients with a history of significant weight loss (> or = 10% over the last 6 months) were considered malnourished. Preoperatively and on postoperative days 1, 4 and 8 the following parameters were evaluated: albumin, prealbumin, transferrin, total number of lymphocytes, lymphocyte subsets (CD3, CD4, CD8 and CD4/CD8 ratio) and immunoglobulins. Postoperative complications and length of stay were recorded.
Results: 'visceral' serum proteins and immunological parameters decreased on postoperative day 1 in both groups. However, only the enriched group demonstrated a significant increase (P<0.05) in the total number of lymphocytes, CD4, CD4/CD8 on postoperative day 4, and total number of lymphocytes, CD3, CD4, CD4/CD8 on postoperative day 8. In the malnourished subgroup the administration of the enriched formula significantly reduced both postoperative infectious/wound complications and length of stay compared with the control group (P<0.05).
Conclusions: enteral immunonutrition of head and neck cancer patients improves postoperative immunological response. Significant clinical advantages were observed in malnourished patients.
Copyright 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.