Get access

Pre-operative oral carbohydrate loading in colorectal surgery: a randomized controlled trial


Alan Horgan, Freeman Hospital, High Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE7 7BR, UK


Objective  Surgery induces a catabolic response with stress hormone release and insulin resistance. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of pre-operative carbohydrate administration on grip strength, gastrointestinal function and hospital stay following elective colorectal surgery.

Methods  Thirty-six patients undergoing elective colonic resection were randomized into one of three groups. Group 1 were fasted; Group 2 were given pre-operative oral water, Group 3 received equivalent volumes of a Maltodextrin drink. Time to first flatus, first bowel movement and hospital stay were recorded. Muscle strength was measured pre-operatively, and on alternate days thereafter until discharge using a grip strength dynamometer.

Results  Patients in the carbohydrate group had a median postoperative hospital stay of 7.5 days compared with 13 days in the water group (P > 0.01) and 10 days in the fasted group (P = 0.06). The median time postsurgery to first flatus was 3 days for both the fasted and water groups compared with 1.5 days in the carbohydrate group (P = 0.13). First bowel movement occurred on day 3 in the carbohydrate group, day 4 in the fasting group and day 5 in the water group. The fasted group showed a significant reduction in postoperative grip strength (P < 0.05) with a median drop of 10% at discharge. Neither the water nor the carbohydrate groups showed significant reductions in muscle strength.

Conclusion  We found that pre-operative administration of oral carbohydrate leads to a significantly reduced postoperative hospital stay, and a trend towards earlier return of gut function when compared with fasting or supplementary water.