Background and aim: The optimal timing of oral refeeding in acute pancreatitis is unclear. This study aimed to perform a systematic review with meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared early oral refeeding with standard oral refeeding in acute pancreatitis. Methods: PubMed, the Cochrane library, and the Igaku-Chuo-Zasshi database were searched in order to identify RCTs eligible for inclusion in the systematic review. The weighted mean differences (WMDs) or odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Results: Five eligible RCTs were included. Compared with standard oral refeeding, early oral refeeding significantly decreased the length of hospital stay (WMD: −2.22, 95%CI: −3.37 to −1.08, p = 0.0001). Although there was heterogeneity (I2= 56%, p = 0.06), subgroup analysis of the refeeding criteria (immediate group and hungry group) eliminated the heterogeneity. There was no significant difference between the early refeeding group and standard refeeding groups with respect abdominal pain and distension (OR 1.14; 95%CI 0.65–1.99 and OR 1.53; 95%CI 0.81–2.90). Conclusions: Compared with standard oral refeeding, early oral refeeding safely reduced the length of hospital stay in patients with acute pancreatitis.
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