Projects per year
Specialized nutritional support containing immunonutrients such as arginine, omega-3 fatty acids, and ribonucleic acid significantly reduces the incidence of postoperative infective complications and hospital length of stay in elective surgery patients. However, immunonutrition use is not standard practice in esophago-gastric units internationally. This review provides a clinical update regarding the use of immunonutrition in patients undergoing major gastrointestinal surgery and, in particular, esophageal cancer resection, and provides direction for future collaborative research. A review of MEDLINE and Cochrane Library databases was conducted for randomized controlled trials or meta-analyses. A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that preoperative immunonutrition use significantly reduces hospital length of stay and the incidence of postoperative complications in patients undergoing major elective surgery, particularly for gastrointestinal malignancies. Only three small randomized controlled trials have evaluated immunonutrition use in patients exclusively undergoing esophageal cancer surgery. These were unable to determine whether immune-enhancing formulae positively influence key clinical outcomes such as mortality, hospital and intensive care unit length of stay, and postoperative morbidity in this patient group. Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of immunonutrition in patients undergoing esophageal cancer surgery. Future collaborative research should evaluate whether: (i) immunonutrition use positively influences key clinical outcomes in this population; (ii) these patients benefit from preoperative supplementation with an immune-enhancing formula or whether they require postoperative continuation (perioperative approach) to combat their risk of complications after surgery; and (iii) these formulae can be used safely in those patients who develop sepsis.