• colorectal;
  • feeding;
  • ileus;
  • nutrition;
  • surgery.

Background: A period of starvation after colorectal resections to allow for resolution of the clinical evidence of ileus has been an unchallenged surgical doctrine until recent times. A prospective randomized trial comparing early feeding to traditional management in patients undergoing open elective colorectal resections is reported.

Methods: Patients undergoing elective intraperitoneal colorectal resections without stoma formation were randomized to either an early feeding or control group. The early feeding group were allowed free fluids from 4 h postoperatively progressing to a solid diet from the first postoperative day as they tolerated it. The control group remained nil orally until passage of flatus or bowel motion and were then commenced on fluids progressing to solids over 24–48 h.

Results: There were 40 patients in each group well matched for age, sex, type and duration of operation, method of analgesia and mobilization. Thirty-two patients (80%) in the early feeding group tolerated a diet within 48 h. There was no significant difference in the rate of vomiting, nasogastric reinsertion or complications. The early feeding group tolerated a diet, passed flatus, used their bowels, and were discharged from hospital significantly earlier than the control group.

Conclusion: Early feeding after elective open colorectal resections is successfully tolerated by the majority of patients, leading to earlier resolution of ileus and hospital discharge.