BACKGROUND: This study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that early enteral nutrition might reduce the incidence of serious complications after major abdominal surgery. METHODS: In a randomised double blind prospective trial 30 patients received Nutri-drink and 30 patients received placebo through a nasoduodenal feeding tube. On the day of operation the patients were given median 600 ml of either nutrition or placebo, 60 ml per hour. On the first postoperative day the patients received either 1000 ml (median) of nutrition or placebo, on day 2 1200 ml (median) nutrition, 1400 ml placebo, on day 3 1000 ml (median) nutrition, 1150 ml placebo, and on day 4 1000 ml (median) nutrition, 800 ml placebo. All patients were followed up for 30 days by the same investigator. RESULTS: The two groups were similar with regard to nutritional status and type of operation. The rate of postoperative infectious complications was significantly lower in the nutrition group, two of 30 compared with 14 of 30 in the placebo group (p = 0.0009). CONCLUSION: Early enteral nutrition given to patients after major abdominal surgery results in an important reduction in infectious complications.
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