Metabolic and nutritional support of the enterocutaneous fistula patient: a three-phase approach

Travis M Polk, C William Schwab
World Journal of Surgery 2012, 36 (3): 524-33

BACKGROUND: The care and outcome of enterocutaneous fistula (ECF) have improved greatly over several decades due to revolutionary advances in nutrition, along with dramatic improvements in the treatment of sepsis and the critically ill. However, as the collective experience with damage control surgery has matured, the frequent development of enteroatmospheric fistula (EAF) in the "open abdomen" patient has emerged as an even more vexing problem. Despite our best efforts, ECF and especially EAF continue to be highly morbid conditions, and sepsis and malnutrition remain the leading causes of death. Aggressive nutritional and metabolic support is the most significant predictor of outcome with ECF and EAF.

RESULTS: Discussion of the historical advances in nutritional therapy and their impact on ECF, as well as review of the classification of ECF and EAF, provides a framework for the suggested phased strategy that specifically targets the nutritional and metabolic needs of the ECF/EAF patient. These three phases include (1) diagnosis, resuscitation, and early interval nutrition; (2) definition of fistula anatomy, drainage of collections, nutritional assessment and monitoring, and placement of feeding access; and (3) definitive nutritional management, including pharmacologic adjuncts. Early nutritional support with parenteral nutrition followed by transition to enteral nutrition is advocated, including the merits of delivery of enteral nutrition via the fistula itself, known as fistuloclysis.

CONCLUSION: Aggressive nutritional therapy is necessary to reverse the catabolic state associated with ECF/EAF patients. Once established, it allows proper time, preparation, and planning for definitive management of the fistula, and in many cases provides the support for spontaneous closure.

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