Background & aims: The evidence in support of Early Enteral Nutrition (EEN) after upper gastrointestinal surgery is inconclusive. The aim of this study was to determine if EEN improved clinical outcomes and shortened length of hospital stay.
Methods: Open, prospective multicentre randomised controlled trial within a regional UK Cancer Network. One hundred and twenty-one patients with suspected operable upper gastrointestinal cancer (54 oesophageal, 38 gastric, 29 pancreatic) were studied. Patients were randomised to receive EEN (n = 64) or Control management postoperatively (nil by mouth and IV fluid, n = 57). Analysis was based on intention-to-treat and the primary outcome measure was length of hospital stay.
Results: Operative morbidity was less common after EEN (32.8%) than Control management (50.9%, p = 0.044), due to fewer wound infections (p = 0.017), chest infections (p = 0.036) and anastomotic leaks (p = 0.055). Median length of hospital stay was 16 days (IQ = 9) after EEN compared with 19 (IQ = 11) days after Control management (p = 0.023).
Conclusions: EEN was associated with significantly shortened length of hospital stay and improved clinical outcomes. These findings reinforce the potential benefit of early oral nutrition in principle and as championed within enhanced recovery after surgery programmes, and such strategies deserve further research in the arena of upper GI surgery.
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