Objective: Patients with head and neck cancer undergoing surgery have a high incidence of postoperative complications. The aim of our study was to investigate whether postoperative nutrition of head and neck cancer patients using an arginine-enhanced formula could improve nutritional variables as well as clinical outcomes.
Design: Randomized clinical trial.
Setting: Tertiary care.
Subjects: A population of 90 patients with oral and laryngeal cancer was enrolled.
Interventions: At surgery, patients were randomly allocated to two groups: (a) patients receiving an arginine-enhanced formula with arginine and fiber (group I) and (b) patients receiving an isocaloric, isonitrogenous formula with fiber enteral formula (group II).
Results: No significant intergroup differences in the trend of the three plasma proteins (albumin, transferrin, prealbumin) and lymphocytes were detected. Gastrointestinal tolerance (diarrhea) was better in group II than I (40% group I and 13% group II: P<0.05). The postoperative complications due to infections were similar in both groups (4% group I and 9% group II: ns). Fistula (wound complication) was less frequent in the enriched nutrition group (5% group I and 11% group II: P<0.05); wound infection was similar in both groups. The length of postoperative stay was better in group I than II (25.8+/-15 days vs 35+/-24.6 days; P<0.05).
Conclusions: In conclusion, arginine-enhanced formula improves fistula rates in postoperative head and neck cancer patients and decreases length of stay.