Resumption of normal oral feeding following surgery can be complicated or delayed. Many factors can contribute to the inability to maintain sufficient oral intake in the postoperative period. Some of these factors are attributable to complications of surgery, some are attributable to the use of medication for anesthesia and analgesia, such as narcotics, some are attributable to mechanical swallowing impairment (dysphagia) or mechanical bowel obstruction, and some are attributable to host factors in advanced disease or critical illness. Our review will examine the expected normal resumption of oral feeding as well as focus on the above complications of postoperative feeding using physiologic principles and discuss the standard alternative nutritional support strategies for these complications.
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