Feeding practices in post-operative patients

A systematic review of feeding practices among postoperative patients: is practice in-line with evidenced-based guidelines?

Rattray et al., JHND Early View unknown


Early oral feeding after surgery is best practice among adult, noncritically ill patients. Evidenced-based guidelines (EBG) recommend commencing liquid and solid feeding within 24 h of surgery to improve patient (e.g. reduced morbidity) and hospital (e.g. reduced length of stay) outcomes. Whether these EBG are adhered to in usual clinical practice remains unknown. The present study aimed to identify the time to commencement of first oral feed (liquid or solid) and first solid feed among postoperative, noncritically ill, adult patients.


MEDLINE, CINAHL, SCOPUS and Web of Science databases were searched from inception to June 2016 for observational studies reporting liquid and/or solid feeding practices among postoperative patients. Studies reporting a mean/median time to first feed or first solid feed within 24 h of surgery or where ≥75% of patients were feeding by postoperative day one were considered in-line with EBG.


Of 5826 articles retrieved, 29 studies were included. Only 40% and 22% of studies reported time to first feed and time to first solid feed in-line with EBG, respectively. Clear and free liquids were the first diet types commenced in 86% of studies. When solids were commenced, 44% of studies reported using various therapeutic diet types (e.g. light) prior to the commencement of a regular diet. Patients who underwent gastrointestinal procedures appeared more likely to experience delayed postoperative feeding.


Our findings demonstrate a gap between postoperative feeding evidence and its practical application. This information provides a strong rationale for interventions targeting improved nutritional care following surgery.

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