Meta-analysis: oral or enteral nutritional supplementation in cirrhosis


  • As part of AP&T's peer-review process, a technical check of this meta-analysis was performed by Mr M. Siddiqui.

Correspondence to:

Dr P. Tandon, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, 130 University Campus NW, Zeidler Ledcor Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.




Malnutrition is a common and clinically significant problem in patients with cirrhosis. The impact of nutritional therapy remains unclear.


To provide an up-to-date systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs of oral or enteral nutritional supplementation (ONS or ENS) on nutritional and clinical outcomes in adult patients with cirrhosis.


The primary outcome measure was survival. Included: full-text English language RCTs investigating ONS or ENS vs. a standard nonsupplemented diet in patients with cirrhosis. Excluded: parenteral or branched chain amino acids intervention; treatment duration ≤7 days, exclusive evaluation of posttransplant, postsurgical or quality of life outcomes.


Six trials (4 ONS/2 ENS) and 470 patients were included with 71% males and median age 53 years. When all studies were combined, there was no reduction in mortality [Relative risk (RR): 0.75 (0.42, 1.32), P = 0.31]. Subgroup analysis of 3 of the 4 ONS studies did demonstrate a mortality reduction [RR: 0.40 (0.18, 0.90), P = 0.03]. Of the 2 ENS studies, one included the sickest patients in the meta-analysis (82% Child Pugh C) and the other had the shortest mean intervention duration (8.6 days), possibly impacting the potential for benefit. Study quality was suboptimal (median Jadad = 2).


Although there is insufficient evidence to definitively state that oro-enteral nutritional supplementation impacts clinical outcomes, on the basis of this analysis, one can be cautiously optimistic that there is the potential for benefit without an increase in adverse events. Adequately powered, Child Pugh stratified studies of at least 1 month in duration are needed to clarify the impact on relevant clinical outcomes.