Nutritional Support during Surgery: Improving Patient Outcomes


Surgery is essentially an invasive technique. It opens up a specific part of the body by cutting through skin and other tissue, exposing it for examination and intervention. Following the operation, patients must recover not only from their original disease, but also from the surgery itself. This is where nutritional support becomes important.

Successful wound healing involves various processes, all of which lead to higher demand for nutrients, and as such, nutritional deficiencies can hamper wound healing.1

Oral protein supplementation may improve survival and prevent complications in patients undergoing surgery.2 Adequate protein intake also regain muscle strength, especially during rehabilitation in orthopaedic cases.3

Amino acids arginine and glutamine are not only vital for tissue repair; they have also been shown to play a role in supporting the immune system and thereby help reduce the risk of post-surgical infections.1,4 Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to be “immune-modulating” and have been shown to reduce postoperative complications, infections and length of hospital stay.5

The use of oral nutrition supplements is not restricted to the period after surgery; studies indicate that patients may also benefit from receiving oral nutritional supplementation even prior to the surgery.6,7

When it comes to oral protein supplements for patients, whey protein is a common constituent used. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids that a person needs for body functions. Hydrolysed whey protein provides partially broken down protein, suitable for individuals that require a quickly-absorbed protein source. This is crucial for people who have just undergone surgery, as adequate protein intake is crucial for a speedy recovery.

Many patients who require surgery are malnourished or unable to eat before or after the surgery. In these individuals, providing nutrition support, either by oral nutritional supplements or tube feeding, is necessary.7 A dietary plan can be created and started before the patient undergoes surgery. If required, oral nutrition formula can be given via a feeding tube. Ensuring that nutrition adequacy is met in these patients can help improve patient outcomes.8

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  5. Pradelli L, Mayer K, Muscaritoli M, Heller AR. Crit Care. 2012;16:R184.
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  7. Weimann A, Braga M, Harsanyi L, et al. Clin Nutr. 2006;25:224-244.
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