Objective: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of early oral feeding after intra-abdominal surgery in gynecologic oncology patients.
Methods: During a 1-year period, 200 gynecologic oncology patients undergoing intra-abdominal surgery were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of early compared with traditional oral postoperative feeding. Patients allocated to early postoperative oral feeding began a clear liquid diet on the first postoperative day and then advanced to a regular diet as tolerated. Patients allocated to traditional postoperative oral feeding received nothing by mouth until return of bowel function (defined as the passage of flatus in the absence of vomiting or abdominal distention), then began a clear liquid diet, and advanced to a regular diet as tolerated.
Results: Age, case distribution, surgery length, blood loss, and first passage of flatus were similar in the early and traditional feeding groups. Significantly more patients in the early group developed nausea. Despite this, the incidence of vomiting, abdominal distention, incidence and duration of nasogastric tube use, and percentage of patients who tolerated clear liquid and regular diets on the first attempt were comparable in both groups. Time to development of bowel sounds, time to initiation of clear liquid and regular diets, and hospital stay were significantly longer in the traditional group. Major complications (eg, pneumonia, atelectasis, and wound complications) and febrile morbidity occurred equally in both groups. There were no known anastamotic complications or aspirations in either group. Postoperative changes in hematologic indices and electrolytes were comparable in both groups.
Conclusion: Early postoperative feeding in gynecologic oncology patients undergoing intra-abdominal surgery is safe and well tolerated.