Benefits of immediate postinjury nutritional support remain ill defined. Seventy-five consecutive patients undergoing emergent celiotomy with an abdominal trauma index (A.T.I.) > 15 were randomized prospectively to a control group (no supplemental nutrition during first 5 days) or enteral-fed group. The enteral patients had a needle catheter jejunostomy (N.C.J.) placed at laparotomy with the constant infusion of an elemental diet (Vivonex HN) begun at 18 hours and advanced to 3,000 ml/day (3,000 kcal, 20 gm N2) within 72 hours. Control and enteral-fed groups were comparable with respect to demographic features, trauma mechanism, shock, colon injury, splenectomy, A.T.I., and initial nutritional assessment.
Twenty (63%) of the enteral patients were maintained on the elemental diet > 5 days; four (12%) needed total parenteral nutrition (T.P.N.). Nine (29%) of the control patients required T.P.N. Nitrogen balance was markedly improved (p < 0.001) in the enteral-fed group. Although visceral protein markers and overall complication rate were not significantly different, septic morbidity was greater (p < 0.025) in the control group (abdominal infection in seven and pneumonia in two) compared to the enteral-fed patients (abdominal abscess in three). Analysis of patients with A.T.I. 15—40 disclosed sepsis in seven (26%) of the control versus one (4%) of the enteral-fed group (p < 0.01).
Our clinical experience demonstrates the feasibility of immediate postoperative enteral feeding via N.C.J. after major abdominal trauma, and suggests this early nutrition reduces septic complications in critically injured patients.