This paper represents an extensive review, spanning 30 years of experience with 404 patients with gastrointestinal fistulas. It includes the first period (1945–1960) during the introduction of antibiotics, the second period (1960–1970) which saw rapid improvements in parasurgical care including, respiratory support, perfection of antibiotics, some introduction of nutritional support and improved monitoring, and the third period which saw the introduction of parenteral nutrition specifically central venous hyperalimentation using hypertonic glucose and amino acids (1970–1975) in the treatment of patients with fistulas. The principal causes for mortality in the historical sense were malnutrition, sepsis and electrolyte imbalance. Mortality among patients with gastrointestinal cutaneous fistulas decreased between the first and second periods from approximately 48 to 15%. Surprisingly, mortality did not decrease further in the “hyperalimentation period” although spontaneous closure of gastrointestinal fistulas increased. The results suggest that the improvement in mortality in patients with gastrointestinal cutaneous fistulas is mostly due to the introduction of improved parasurgical care. It is acknowledged that nutritional support was practiced in the 1960's although this was generally not in the form of hyperalimentation. The addition of hyperalimentation in large scale to the treatment of gastrointestinal cutaneous fistulas has improved spontaneous closure and is a valuable part of the armamentarium. The decrease in mortality however, cannot be attributed to parenteral nutrition.