Background & aims: The aim of this study was to investigate whether specialized supportive enteral and parenteral feeding have superior effects compared to oral nutrition on recovery during long-term postoperative treatment of cancer patients with preoperative weight loss and reduced maximum exercise capacity.
Methods: One hundred twenty-six patients referred for resection of the esophagus (n = 48), stomach (n = 28), or pancreas (n = 50) were considered to be included before operation. Included patients (n = 80) received supportive enteral or parenteral nutrition postoperatively at home corresponding to 1000 kcal/d until the patients did not wish to continue with artificial nutrition for any reason. Patients randomized to oral nutrition only served as control subjects. Caloric intake, body composition (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), and respiratory gas exchanges at rest and during exercise were measured including health-related quality of life.
Results: Survival and hospital stay did not differ among the groups, whereas overall complications were higher on artificial nutrition (P < .05). Changes in resting energy expenditure and biochemical tests did not differ during follow-up among the groups. Body weight and whole body fat declined similarly over time in all groups (P < .005), whereas lean body mass was unchanged during follow-up compared to preoperative values. Maximum exercise capacity and maximum oxygen consumption were normalized within 6 months postoperatively in all groups. There was no difference in recovery of food intake among the groups. Parenteral feeding was associated with the highest rate of nutrition-related complications, whereas enteral feeding reduced quality of life most extensively.
Conclusion: After major surgery, specialized supportive enteral and parenteral nutrition are not superior to oral nutrition only when guided by a dietitian.