Background: In the late course of chronic pancreatitis (CP), weight loss is often seen because of reduced caloric intake and a reduction of pancreatic enzyme secretion, resulting in maldigestion. Most of these patients can be managed by dietary recommendations and pancreatic enzyme supplementation. However, approximately 5% of these patients are reported to be candidates for enteral nutrition support during their course of CP. Although small bowel access for enteral feeding can be easily obtained by percutaneous endoscopic gastrojejunostomy (PEG/J) or direct percutaneous endoscopic jejunostomy (DPEJ), to date there are no data regarding clinical outcome and safety of long-term jejunal feeding in CP.
Methods: From January 1999 to October 2002, 57 patients receiving enteral nutrition by PEG/J or DPEJ were retrospectively analyzed during a follow-up period of 6 months. There were 38 females and 19 males, with an average age of 46.6 years.
Results: Small-bowel access was obtained by PEG/J in 53 patients and by DPEJ in 4. Duration of enteral feeding was 113 days. Average body weight significantly increased from 64.8 kg at day 1 to 69.1 kg at day 180 (p < .001). The percentage of patients with abdominal pain decreased from 96% to 23%. One patient sustained a colon mesentery injury after DPEJ tube placement.
Conclusions: Long-term nutrition support by PEG/J or DPEJ in patients with symptomatic, chronic pancreatitis increases patients' body weight and decreases the degree of malnutrition, abdominal pain, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. The underlying mechanisms for these observations are unclear and require further investigation. Small-bowel rest with reduced pancreatic gland stimulation might be a key component. Moderately to severely malnourished patients who do not respond to oral dietary interventions and who are candidates for elective pancreatic surgery might also be candidates for long-term preoperative jejunal feeding to reduce malnutrition-associated perioperative complications. In experienced hands, we feel that long-term jejunal feeding is safe, with minimal major complications.