Does Prolonged Enteral Feeding With Supplemental Omega-3 Fatty Acids Impact on Recovery Post-esophagectomy: Results of a Randomized Double-Blind Trial

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This randomized controlled trial (RCT) hypothesized that prolonged enteral nutrition (EN) with supplemental eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid with immune and anabolic properties, may impact on clinical and nutritional outcomes.


Esophagectomy is associated with significant weight loss and catabolism, and negatively impacts quality of life (QL). Strategies to counter sustained catabolism have therapeutic rationale.


This multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled RCT was powered on a 5% difference in lean body mass (LBM) at 1 month. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either EN-EPA (2.2 g EPA/day) (n = 97) or isocaloric isonitrogenous standard EN (EN-S) (n = 94), preoperatively (5 days orally), and postoperatively via a jejunostomy until 1 month postdischarge. Assessments perioperatively, and at 1, 3, and 6 months included weight, body mass index (BMI), body composition, muscle strength, cytokines, complications, and QL.


The median (range) nutrition support was for 51 (36 to 78) days, and overall compliance was 96%. For the entire cohort, a significant (P < 0.005) decrease in weight (−7.4 ± 6.6 kg), BMI (−2.6 ± 2.2 kg/m2), LBM (−2.5 ± 8.7 kg), and fat mass (−3.4 ± 5.8 kg) was evident from preoperatively to 6 months. The mean (±SD) loss of LBM (kg) at 1 month was −3.7 ± 8.7 in the EN-S group, compared with −5.6 ± 12.1 in the EN-EPA group (P = 0.355). Per-protocol analysis revealed no difference between the EN-EPA and EN-S in any clinical, nutritional, functional, QL or immune parameter at any time point.


The thesis that EPA impacts on anabolism, immune function, and clinical outcomes post-esophagectomy was not supported. Compliance with home EN was excellent, but weight, muscle, and fat loss was significant in 30% of patients, highlighting the complexity of postoperative weight loss.

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