Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

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Head and neck cancer patients present with special problems in nutritional homeostasis because of local pharyngeal discomfort and obstruction and difficulty with deglutition due to either the neoplasm or the surgical alterations in the upper aerodigestive tract. Pretreatment malnutrition and vitamin deficiency are only compounded by the nutritional stress imposed by radiation and surgery. Reduced wound complications occur if the patients are nutritionally replenished before treatment. While nasogastric feedings will suffice in many patients, rapid nutritional restoration by this method is limited, and positive nitrogen balance may be difficult to achieve in the severely malnourished patient. Intravenous hyperalimentation offers a rapid and efficacious alternative in selected cases. The case histories of two patients are presented to illustrate these concepts.

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