Background: The ability to deliver nutrition enterally after operation has been a significant advance in managing patients after major intra-abdominal operations. Methods: The experience of a single surgeon at a tertiary referral hospital over a 10-year period with insertion and use of 500 consecutive needle catheter jejunostomies (NCJs) was reviewed critically from prospectively collected data. Results: The NCJ was used to deliver nutrition in 93 per cent, fluid and electrolytes in 95 per cent, and various medications in the postoperative period in the majority of patients. There were three major complications: small bowel obstruction and pneumatosis intestinalis in one and two patients respectively. Minor complications included diarrhoea (15 per cent), abdominal distension (15 per cent), abdominal cramps (3 per cent), subcutaneous infection at the insertion site (1 per cent) and catheter occlusion precluding use (1 per cent). In 16 patients, the NCJ was replaced percutaneously with a larger-bore catheter for more prolonged enteral feeding at home after discharge. Conclusion: Through the experience gained, indications are offered for the placement of NCJs and cautions are provided concerning appropriate use of an NCJ to provide nutritional support, fluid and electrolyte replacement or maintenance, and safe enteral administration of medication. Overall, an NCJ appears to allow safer, cheaper and equally effective delivery of nutrition compared with total parenteral nutrition after major intra-abdominal operations.
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