Background: Sham feeding has been shown to hasten the return of GI function following colorectal surgery, before the advent of enhanced recovery after surgery protocols. Few data exist regarding the efficacy of sham feeding in the modern era, with rapid postoperative feeding.
Objective: We sought to perform a meta-analysis on the effect of sham feeding in colorectal surgery, with a separate analysis on trials that used rapid postoperative feeding.
Data sources: Cochrane, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, and PubMed were searched by using the terms gum OR sham feeding OR chew AND (colorect OR resect).
Study selection: All studies were randomized controlled trials (in any language) performed on adults, comparing standard care with gum chewing following colorectal resection. From 439 citations, 10 articles were included.
Intervention: The intervention was sham feeding by means of gum chewing.
Main outcome measures: The outcome measures were time to return of flatus, time to first bowel movement, complication rates, length of hospital stay, readmission rates, and reoperation rates.
Results: Ten randomized controlled trials (n = 612) were included. Sham feeding resulted in a reduction in time to flatus of 31 minutes (p = 0.003) and time to first bowel movement of 30 minutes (p = 0.05). Sham feeding also resulted in a reduction in length of stay by 0.5 days (p = 0.007), and a reduction in complication rates (relative risk = 0.687, p = 0.017), although this appeared to be associated with publication bias. Analysis of trials that used rapid postoperative feeding (n = 282) revealed no difference in postoperative GI function.
Limitations: This review was limited by the heterogeneity of postoperative feeding regimes, in addition to limited reporting by trials of postoperative morbidity.
Conclusions: Sham feeding following colorectal surgery is safe, results in small improvements in GI recovery, and is associated with a reduction in the length of hospital stay. It confers no advantage if patients are placed on a rapid postoperative feeding regime.