Wound healing response in surgical patients: recent food intake is more important than nutritional status


Windsor J




Br J Surg


We have recently found that an impairment of the wound healing response (WHR) occurs in surgical patients with protein-energy malnutrition before there are any measurable changes in body fat and protein stores. The hypothesis of this study was that the patients' recent food intake is more important in determining the WHR than the patients' overall nutritional status. We have measured the recent food intake (by dietary recall), the WHR (by hydroxyproline accumulation in subcutaneous GORE-TEX implants), the pre-operative weight loss (per cent), and body fat and protein stores (by in vivo neutron activation analysis) in 83 patients awaiting a major elective gastrointestinal resection, and divided them into two groups: adequate recent food intake (n = 59) and inadequate recent food intake (n = 24). There was no significant difference between these two groups for age, sex, diagnosis, surgical procedure, weight loss (per cent), or the amount of body fat and protein stores but there was a significant difference in the WHR (1.81 +/- 0.16 s.e.m. versus 1.04 +/- 0.22 s.e.m. nmol hydroxyproline/mg GORE-TEX, P less than 0.005). These results show that pre-operative food intake has a greater influence over the wound healing response than absolute losses of protein and fat from body stores and they suggest that the maintenance of a normal food intake up until the time of surgery is of importance in preventing an impairment of the wound healing response.