The value of routine nasogastric tube (NGT) decompression after elective hepatic resection has not been investigated.Methods
Of 200 patients who had elective hepatic resection, including 68 who had previously had colorectal surgery, 100 were randomized to NGT decompression, where the NGT was left in place after surgery until the passage of flatus or stool, and 100 to no decompression, where the NGT was removed at the end of the operation.Results
There was no difference between patients who had NGT decompression and those who did not in terms of overall surgical complications (15·0 versus 19·0 per cent respectively; P = 0·451) medical morbidity (61·0 versus 55·0 per cent; P = 0·391), in-hospital mortality (3·0 versus 2·0 per cent; P = 0·640), duration of ileus (mean(s.d.) 4·3(1·5) versus 4·5(1·7) days; P = 0·400) or length of hospital stay (14·2(8·5) versus 15·8(10·8) days; P = 0·220). Twelve patients randomized to no NGT decompression required reinsertion of the tube 3·9(1·9) days after surgery. Previous abdominal surgery had no influence on the need for NGT reinsertion. Severe discomfort was recorded in 21 patients in the NGT group and premature removal of the tube was required in 19. Pneumonia (13·0 versus 5·0 per cent; P = 0·047) and atelectasis (81 versus 67 per cent; P = 0·043) were significantly more common in the NGT group.Conclusion
Routine NGT decompression after elective hepatectomy had no advantages. Its use was associated with an increased risk of pulmonary complications.