Early oral feeding and its impact on postoperative outcomes in head and neck cancer surgery: a meta-analysis.

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BACKGROUND: Early oral feeding has been previously postulated to contribute to developing postoperative complications following head and neck reconstructive surgeries using free flaps. This study assessed the association between the timing of oral feeding (early vs. late) and postoperative complications and length of hospital stay among these patients.

METHOD: PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane, and Web of Science were searched using terms such as "oral feeding" and "head or neck cancer." We utilized RevMan software version 5.4 for the analysis. The study defined early oral feeding as feeding within 5-day post-operation, while late oral feeding was defined as feeding after the fifth postoperative day. Five papers that met the inclusion criteria were included in the analysis, with 1097 patients.

RESULTS: The results showed that early feeding was not significantly associated with postoperative fistulas (RR 0.49, 95% CI 0.23 to 1.05, p-value = 0.07), hematoma/seroma (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.33 to 1.51, p-value = 0.38), or flap failure (RR 0.84, 95% CI = 0.38 to 1.87, p-value = 0.67). However, early oral feeding was significantly associated with shorter hospital stays than late oral feeding (MD -3.18, 95% CI -4.90 to -1.46, p-value = 0.0003).

CONCLUSION: No significant difference exists between early and late oral feeding regarding the risk of postoperative complications in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients who underwent free flap reconstruction surgery. However, early oral feeding is significantly associated with a shorter hospital stay than late oral feeding. Thus, surgeons should consider implementing early oral feeding after free flap reconstruction in HNC patients.

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Maxillofac Plast Reconstr Surg





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