Cardiff University LogoScientists from Cardiff University and the University Hospital of Wales claim that cancer patients could possibly improve quicker from surgery, if they are provided liquid food directly into the intestine. In addition, this may perhaps save the National Health Service (NHS) millions.

It was observed that patients experiencing cancers of the oesophagus, stomach and pancreas have usually been fasting or are consuming nothing by mouth for approximately 10 days after gastrointestinal operations. This is so, because surgeons have long believed that nutrition after surgery could be dangerous to patients’ recovery.

Dr Rachael Barlow, lead author on the trial at Cardiff University and the University Hospital of Wales, said that, “In our trial we turned the traditional thinking to starve patients after major gastrointestinal surgery on its head and have found huge benefits. The striking find that nutrients straight after surgery meant patients recovered quicker and tended to have fewer complications has major implications for the NHS.”

However, a clinical study discovered that if patients are given food directly into the intestine with the help of a feeding tube, they may possibly recuperate around three days faster in contrast to if they fasted and were only hydrated with fluids through a drip. Apparently, IV drip usually contains water and saline.

Barlow further stated that, “Importantly patients who were given the nutrition were more likely to be healthier and have a better quality of life in the months after surgery. And may result in a saving of millions of pounds and could mean fewer bed shortages in hospitals.”

The findings also revealed that the patients seemed to have developed fewer major complications following their surgery. The study of approximately 121 patients also examined at whether nutrition straight after surgery appears to have any effect on the speed of recovery as compared to not eating anything.

Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, chair of the NCRI, stated that, “This result shows that a small change in follow up care after operations for oesophagus, stomach and pancreas cancer could benefit patients and have huge cost saving implications for the NHS. We look forward to seeing the results of further clinical trials to see if the same technique of food after surgery can be applied to patients who have had operations for other types of cancers.”

Barlow anticipates that the next step would be to find out if they could possibly adopt the same practice in other types of surgery. They also hope to carry out more clinical trials in this area.