The feeding route after esophagectomy: a review of literature
Enhanced recovery programs effectively optimize perioperative care and reduce postoperative morbidity. In esophagectomy, several components of the ERAS program are successfully introduced. However, timing and type of postoperative feeding remain a matter of debate. Adequate nutritional support is essential in patients undergoing an esophagectomy. These patients often present with weight loss and their eating pattern is strongly altered by the procedure and reconstruction. Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is associated with severe septic complications and enteral nutrition (EN) does not increase major complications. Therefore, early EN after esophagectomy is favored over TPN. However, with enteral feeding tubes minor complications occur frequently (13–38%) and in some cases this can hamper recovery. Based on experience in other types of upper gastro-intestinal surgery, early start of oral feeding could improve time to functional recovery after surgery. The total length of stay was significantly shorter in four prospective studies (6–12 vs. 8–13 days). However, large randomized controlled trials are lacking and the potential benefit of early oral feeding after esophageal surgery remains elusive. EN is nowadays the optimal feeding route after esophagectomy. TPN should only be used in specific cases in which EN is contraindicated. Early initiation of oral intake is promising and could improve postoperative recovery. However, further research is needed to substantiate these results.