Background: Undernutrition is common in patients admitted with stroke. We aimed to establish whether the timing and route of enteral tube feeding after stroke affected patients' outcomes at 6 months.
Methods: The FOOD trials consist of three pragmatic multicentre randomised controlled trials, two of which included dysphagic stroke patients. In one trial, patients enrolled within 7 days of admission were randomly allocated to early enteral tube feeding or no tube feeding for more than 7 days (early versus avoid). In the other, patients were allocated percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) or nasogastric feeding. The primary outcome was death or poor outcome at 6 months. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: Between Nov 1, 1996, and July 31, 2003, 859 patients were enrolled by 83 hospitals in 15 countries into the early versus avoid trial. Early tube feeding was associated with an absolute reduction in risk of death of 5.8% (95% CI -0.8 to 12.5, p=0.09) and a reduction in death or poor outcome of 1.2% (-4.2 to 6.6, p=0.7). In the PEG versus nasogastric tube trial, 321 patients were enrolled by 47 hospitals in 11 countries. PEG feeding was associated with an absolute increase in risk of death of 1.0% (-10.0 to 11.9, p=0.9) and an increased risk of death or poor outcome of 7.8% (0.0 to 15.5, p=0.05).
Interpretation: Early tube feeding might reduce case fatality, but at the expense of increasing the proportion surviving with poor outcome. Our data do not support a policy of early initiation of PEG feeding in dysphagic stroke patients.