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Can J Surg. 2001 Apr;44(2):102-11.

Total parenteral nutrition in the surgical patient: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ont.



To examine the relationship between total parenteral nutrition(TPN) and complication and death rates in surgical patients.


A computer search of published research on MEDLINE, personal files and a review of relevant reference lists.


A review of 237 titles, abstracts or papers. Primary studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials of surgical patients that evaluated the effect of TPN (compared to no TPN or standard care) on complication and death rates. Studies comparing TPN to enteral nutrition (EN) were excluded.


Relevant data were abstracted on the methodology and outcomes of primary studies. Data were independently abstracted in duplicate.


There were 27 randomized trials in surgical patients that compared the use of TPN to standard care (usual oral diet plus intravenous dextrose). When the results of these trials were aggregated, there was no effect on mortality (risk ratio = 0.97, 95% confidence intervals, 0.76 to 1.24). There were fewer major complications in patients who received TPN, although there was significant heterogeneity in the overall estimate (risk ratio = 0.81, 95% CI, 0.65 to 1.01). Because of this significant heterogeneity, several a priori hypotheses were examined. Studies that included only malnourished patients demonstrated a trend to a reduction in complication rates but no difference in death rate when compared with studies of patients who were not malnourished. Studies published in 1988 or earlier and studies with a lower methods score were associated with a significant reduction in complication rates and a trend to a reduction in death rate when compared with studies published after 1988 and studies with a higher methods score. There was no difference in studies that provided lipids as a component of TPN when compared with studies that did not. Studies that initiated TPN preoperatively demonstrated a trend to a reduction in complication rates but no difference in death rate when compared with studies that initiated TPN postoperatively.


TPN does not influence the death rate of surgical patients. It may reduce the complication rate, especially in malnourished patients, but study results are influenced by methodologic quality and year of publication.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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