Objective: The objective was to determine whether, when compared with traditional dietary advancement, early oral intake following major gynecologic surgery leads to a reduction in the length of hospitalization.
Methods: Patients undergoing major abdominal gynecologic surgery were invited to participate in this study. After informed consent was obtained, they were randomized to one of two groups. The control group (group 1) was treated traditionally. Oral intake was initiated only after documentation of bowel function, which was defined by two of the following three criteria: (1) bowel sounds; (2) flatus or bowel movement; and (3) subjective hunger. Those assigned to the study group (group 2) were given a clear liquid diet on postoperative day 1. Once 500 cc was tolerated, a regular diet was given. Patients were evaluated on a daily basis for bowel sounds, flatus, bowel movement, hunger, nausea, vomiting, and need for nasogastric tube decompression. The groups were compared with regard to length of hospital stay, length of postoperative ileus, and incidence of adverse effects including nausea, vomiting, and postoperative complications. Statistical analyses were performed with the Student t and chi 2 tests.
Results: The demographic characteristics of the control (N = 47) and study groups (N = 49) were similar, with no significant differences in underlying medical conditions, prior abdominal surgery, or diagnosis of a malignancy. The groups did not vary statistically in the number of subjects who required postoperative antiemetics or postoperative biscodyl suppository. There was a statistically significant reduction in the length of hospitalization for those patients on the early feeding regimen. The average length of stay for group 1 was 4.02 days +/- 0.30 (SEM), while that for group 2 was 3.12 days +/- 0.16 (P = 0.008). While there was a significantly higher incidence of emesis in the study population, this was not associated with any untoward outcome, and this group actually tolerated a solid diet nearly one full day earlier (2.72 days +/- 0.14 vs 1.88 days +/- 0.14, P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Early postoperative oral intake results in a decreased length of hospitalization and is well tolerated when compared with traditional dietary management in patients undergoing abdominal surgery on a university gynecologic oncology service.