Early oral feeding following esophagectomy

Xian-Ben Liu, Wen-Qun Xing, Hai-Bo Sun


Nutritional support for patients with esophagectomy is very important especially for patients with malnutrition. But there is significant variation in nutritional support between different hospitals. Traditionally, 5 to 7 days of nil by mouth is required to allow healing of the anastomosis after esophagectomy; a feeding tube (usually jejunostomy tube) placed before or during the operation provides enteral access for patients with esophagectomy. However, there is no consensus of the timing of oral intake after esophagectomy. We reviewed the published data about early oral feeding (EOF) after esophagectomy. At present, there were only four studies, including two randomized studies, investigating the feasibility and safety of EOF for patients with esophagectomy. The results of the current studies show that EOF after esophagectomy do not increase postoperative complications and motility. However, evidence from large multicenter randomized controlled clinical trials is still lacking. In the future, the long-term outcomes, including body weight loss, quality of life (QOL), laboratory nutritional markers and survival, should be investigated in the field of EOF protocols. EOF after esophagectomy may require the application of the most recent knowledge and the perioperative practice of multi-disciplinary team medical care, according to the situation of each medical center.