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Systematic review
Distal feeding–bowel stimulation to treat short-term or long-term pathology: a systematic review


Background Distal feeding (DF) describes the insertion of a feeding tube into a fistula or stoma to administer a liquid feed into the distal bowel. It is currently used clinically in patients who are unable to absorb enough nutrition orally. This systematic review investigates DF as a therapeutic measure across a spectrum of patients with stomas and fistulae.

Methods A total of 2825 abstracts and 44 full-text articles were screened via OVID. Fifteen papers were included for analysis. Randomised controlled trials, cohort and observational studies investigating DF as a therapeutic measure were included.

Results Three feeds were used across the studies—reinfusion of effluent, infusion of prebiotic or a mixture. The studies varied the length of feeding between 24 hours and 61 days, and the mode of feeding, bolus or continuous varied.

DF was demonstrated to effectively wean patients from parenteral nutrition in two papers. Two papers demonstrated a significant reduction in stoma output. Three papers demonstrated improved postoperative complication rates with distal feeding regimens, including ileus (2.85% vs 20% in unfed population, p=0.024). One paper demonstrated a reduction in postoperative stool frequency.

Conclusions This review was limited by study heterogeneity and the lack of trial data, and in the patient groups involved, the variability in diet and length of regimen. These studies suggest that DF can significantly reduce stoma output and improve renal and liver function; however, the mechanism is not clear. Further mechanistic work on the immunological and microbiological action of DF would be important.

  • intestinal failure
  • colorectal cancer
  • nutritional supplementation
  • short bowel syndrome
  • prebiotic

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