Perioperative nutritional supplementation may improve outcomes. Trials have not investigated the role of combination strategy using different types of nutritional supplements.
We conducted a single-site randomized pilot trial, among gastrointestinal cancer patients undergoing surgery, comparing perioperative nutritional supplements versus placebo (1 placebo to each supplement), to determine feasibility of a larger trial. Intervention, administered in sequence, included: protein supplementation (preoperative day 30–6), protein supplementation rich in arginine and omega-6 (preoperative day 5–1, and postoperative day 1–5), and carbohydrate loading (surgery day). Primary outcome was enrollment. Secondary outcomes included participant compliance with study supplements (target ≥70% of total packets). We planned protocol modifications to improve enrollment and compliance. Postoperative complications were described.
Over 18 months, 495 patients were screened, 144 were deemed eligible, and 71 consented to participate, resulting in an enrollment fraction of 71/144 (49%, 95% confidence interval: 41%–57%). ‘Too much burden’ was the most common reason for refusal to participate (34%). Participants’ median overall compliance with study packets was 80%. Protocol modifications (decreasing the interval from enrollment to surgery from 4 to 2 weeks and decreasing length of baseline assessment) did not impact enrollment or compliance. Postoperative complications were similar between control (18/31 [58%, 95% confidence interval: 4–74]), and intervention (22/34 [65%, 95% confidence interval: 48–79]) arms, with a higher proportion of infectious complications in the control arm (16/31, 52% vs 12/34, 35%).
Results from this pilot suggest a larger phase III trial is feasible. Postoperative infectious complications were common, making this a suitable outcome of interest.
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Published online: May 20, 2022
Accepted: April 1, 2022
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