Background: Early enteral nutrition with solutions containing prebiotics (fiber) and probiotics (Lactobacillus) is suggested to reduce bacterial translocation and minimize the incidence of infections after liver transplantation.
Methods: In a prospective, randomized placebo-controlled trial consisting of 95 patients, we compared the incidence of postoperative infections and other complications after liver transplantation among three different groups, all supplied with early enteral nutrition: (a) standard formula plus selective bowel decontamination (SBD), (b) fiber-containing formula plus living Lactobacillus plantarum 299, and (c) fiber-containing formula plus heat-killed L plantarum 299.
Results: The groups were comparable regarding preoperative American Society of Anesthesiologists classification, Child-Pugh classification of cirrhosis, operative data, and degree of immunosuppression. The patients who received living lactobacilli plus fiber developed significantly fewer bacterial infections (13%) than the patients with SBD (48%). The incidence of infections was 34% in the group with inactivated lactobacilli and fiber. Cholangitis and pneumonia were the leading infections and enterococci the most commonly isolated bacteria. In the living Lactobacillus group, the mean duration of antibiotic therapy, the mean total hospital stay, and the stay on the intensive care unit were also shorter than in the groups with inactivated lactobacilli and fiber as well as with SBD. However, these differences did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: Early enteral nutrition with fiber-containing solutions and living L plantarum 299 was well tolerated. It decreases markedly the rate of postoperative infections both in comparison with inactivated L plantarum 299 and significantly with SBD and a standard enteral nutrition formula. As it is a cheap and feasible alternative to SBD, further studies should evaluate whether this ecoimmunonutrition should be already started while patients are on the waiting list for transplantation.