Objective: Patients with head and neck cancer undergoing surgery have a high incidence of postoperative complications. The aim of our study was to investigate whether postoperative nutrition of head and neck cancer patients, using an arginine-enriched diet, could improve nutritional variables as well as clinical outcomes. Design: Randomized clinical trial. Setting: Tertiary care. Subjects: A population of 47 patients with oral and laryngeal cancer were enrolled. Interventions: At surgery patients were randomly allocated to two groups: (a) patients receiving an enteral diet supplemented with arginine and fiber (group I); (b) patients receiving an isocaloric, isonitrogenous enteral formula (group II). Results: No significant intergroup differences in the trend of the three plasma proteins and lymphocytes were detected. Gastrointestinal tolerance (diarrhea) of both formulas was good (17.4% group I and 8.3% group II; NS). During the 3 months after hospital discharge five patients died; no diferences were detected between groups (13% group I and 8.3% group II; NS). The incidences postoperative infection complications were similar (nine patients) in both groups (21.7% group I and 16.7% group II; NS). Fistula were less frequent in enriched nutrition group (0% group I and 20.8% group II; P < 0.05); wound infection was more frequent in group II, but without statistical difference (4.3% group I and 12.5% group II; NS). The length of postoperative stay was 22.8 ± 11.8 days in the enriched group and 31.2 ± 19.1 days in the control group (P = 0.07). Conclusions: In conclusion, enriched formula improves local wound complications in postoperative head and neck cancer patients. Our results suggest that these patients could benefit from an immunonutrient-enhanced enteral formula.
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