Can't we just let them eat? Defining and addressing under-use of the oral route in a post-surgical ward

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Building 12 Missenden Road, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia. .
Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 1.7). 04/2013; 22(2):200-5. DOI: 10.6133/apjcn.2013.22.2.12
Source: PubMed


Early postoperative nutrition improves outcomes. However, postoperative fasting is a tradition that persists in some areas of surgical practice. This retrospective audit was performed to benchmark current nutrition support practices on a mixed specialty surgical ward in a large tertiary-referral teaching hospital. Thirty-eight consecutive patients, who were undergoing gynaecological or urological surgical procedures between November 2010 and May 2011, had data collected including demographics, nutritional status, details of surgery performed, postoperative complications, modes of nutrition support and time taken to progress to solid oral diet. Energy and protein provision and adequacy was estimated for the first week postoperatively. Sixteen patients commenced parenteral nutrition postoperatively without any trial of oral or enteral nutrition. Reasons for using parenteral nutrition included observed or expected gut dysmotility and lack of enteral access for feeding. These patients did demonstrate longer length of stay and higher rates of postoperative complications. Given the proportion of patients initiated immediately on parenteral nutrition and maintained on it alone, it can be argued that these patients are not able to demonstrate tolerance and receive the benefits of early enteral feeding predicted by studies within these patient groups. None of the patients met their energy and protein requirements in the first week postoperatively. Despite support in the literature, it can be challenging to implement early postoperative nutrition support after pelvic surgery. It may be necessary to employ a variety of strategies to change this aspect of practice and promote earlier introduction of an oral diet or the use of enteral nutrition.

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