Enteral nutrition during multimodality therapy in upper gastrointestinal cancer patients

Ann Surg. 1995 Apr;221(4):327-38. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199504000-00002.


Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate long-term enteral nutrition support in postoperative cancer patients.

Background: Multimodality therapy for surgical patients with upper gastrointestinal malignancies may improve survival, but often results in substantial malnutrition, immunosuppression, and morbidity. The benefits of combined inpatient and outpatient enteral feeding with standard diets or diets supplemented with arginine, RNA + omega-3 fatty acids are unclear.

Methods: Sixty adult patients with esophageal (22), gastric (16), and pancreatic (22) lesions were stratified by disease site and percent usual weight and randomized to receive supplemental or standard diet via jejunostomy beginning on the first postoperative day (goal = 25 kcal/kg/day) until hospital discharge. Patients also were randomized to receive (n = 37) or not receive (n = 23) enteral jejunostomy feedings (1000 kcal/day overnight) for the 12- to 16-week recovery and radiation/chemotherapy periods. Plasma and peripheral white blood cells were obtained for fatty acid levels and PGE2 production measurements.

Results: Mean plasma and cellular omega 3/omega 6 fatty acid levels (percent composition) increased significantly (p < 0.05) in the arginine + omega-3 fatty acid group by postoperative day 7 (0.30 vs. 0.13) and (0.29 vs. 0.14) and continued to increase over time. Mean PGE2 production decreased significantly (p < 0.05) from 2760 to 1600 ng/10(6) cells/mL at day 7 in the arginine + omega-3 fatty acid group, whereas no significant change over time was noted in the standard group. Infectious/wound complications occurred in 10% of the supplemented group compared with 43% of the standard group (p < 0.05); mean length of hospital stay was 16 vs. 22 (p < 0.05) days, respectively. Of the patients who received postoperative chemoradiation therapy, only 1 (6%) of the 18 patients randomized to receive tube feeding did not continue, whereas 8 (61%) of the 13 patients not randomized to tube feedings required crossover to jejunostomy nutritional support.

Conclusions: Supplemental enteral feeding significantly increased plasma and peripheral white blood cell omega 3/omega 6 ratios and significantly decreased PGE2 production and postoperative infectious/wound complications compared with standard enteral feeding. For outpatients receiving adjuvant therapy, those initially randomized to oral feedings alone required rehospitalization more frequently, and 61% crossed over to supplemental enteral feedings.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Enteral Nutrition*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / chemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Postoperative Care / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids