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Early Tube Feeding Does Not Improve Outcomes in Acute Pancreatitis


Clinical question

Does early nasoenteric feeding decrease the rate of infections or death in patients hospitalized with severe acute pancreatitis?

Bottom line

In patients with severe acute pancreatitis, early nasoenteric feeding initiated within 24 hours of presentation, as compared with oral feeding after 72 hours, does not improve mortality or reduce the rate of major infections. (LOE = 1b-)


Bakker OJ, van Brunschot S, van Santvoort HC, et al, for the Dutch Pancreatitis Study Group. Early versus on-demand nasoenteric tube feeding in acute pancreatitis. N Engl J Med 2014;371(21):1983-1993.

Study design: Randomized controlled trial (nonblinded)

Funding source: Government

Allocation: Concealed

Setting: Inpatient (ward only)


Previous observational studies suggest that early nasoenteric feeding in patients with acute pancreatitis may reduce the rate of major infections by stimulating intestinal motility, reducing bacterial overgrowth, and increasing splanchnic blood flow. Using concealed allocation, these authors randomized patients presenting to the emergency department with severe acute pancreatitis to receive either early nasoenteric tube feeding initiated within 24 hours (n = 102) or oral feeding started at 72 hours (n = 106). If the oral diet was not tolerated, tube feeding was initiated after 96 hours. The 2 groups were similar at baseline: the mean age was 65 years and 60% of the patients had evidence of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). Analysis was by intention to treat. One third of patients in the oral group eventually required tube feeding. For the primary composite end point of death or major infection (infected pancreatic necrosis, bacteremia, or pneumonia), there was no significant difference detected between the 2 groups. When the outcomes of major infection and death were examined separately, the 2 groups again had comparable results. Finally, patients in both groups had similar rates of admission to the intensive care unit and similar need for mechanical ventilation. Given fewer-than-expected events in the control group, it is possible that the study was too small to detect a difference in the primary outcome, if such a difference exists.

Dr. Kulkarni is an assistant professor of hospital medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

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