Continuous Feeding

A randomized trial of continuous operative feeding for intubated surgical patients

Principal Investigator: Robert Martindale, MD

What is the Continuous Feeding study?

The purpose of this study is to examine feeding in surgical ICU patients, find out if it is safe to feed these subjects up until surgery and compare how they do compared to subjects who have their feeds stopped the night prior to surgery. We will look for differences in:

  • Total calories delivered
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Internal organ function
  • Infections
  • Laboratory (blood) tests
  • Pneumonia (an infection of the lungs)
  • Length of hospital and ICU stay

Why do this study?

Nutrition is essential for healing and recovery from illness. Tube feeds are the standard care for patients with prolonged stays in the intensive care unit (ICU) who cannot eat food on their own. Tube feeding means that a tube has been placed in a patient's stomach or small intestine to provide nutrition.

When a patient is scheduled for an elective surgery, he/she usually has nothing to eat after midnight prior to the operation. A fasting period before surgery is done to avoid possible side effects during the placement of a breathing tube. Having an empty stomach is thought to decrease the chances of vomiting or aspiration while a breathing tube is placed. (Aspiration occurs when a substance, such as food provided by a tube feed, enters the airway.) However, some patients already have a breathing tube in place. We do not know which is better for patients who already have a breathing tube in place: continuing feedings up until surgery or stopping them the night before.

Who will be included?

Any critically ill patient who is intubated, requires nutrition support through a feeding tube and requires an operation.

What is involved?

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two study groups:

  • Group 1: Feeding will be stopped after midnight prior to the scheduled operation.
  • Group 2: Feeding will be continued up until the scheduled operation.

Both groups will have feeding restarted after surgery is complete. Patients in both groups will be monitored for infections and other complications. Labs will be drawn according to standard protocols. Data such as calories given, height, weight, gender, diagnoses, surgery and length of stay will be recorded.

For more information, contact Erika Simeon at 503 494-4315 or by email at