PURPOSE: The routine use of postoperative nasogastric decompression after abdominal surgery has been challenged. Furthermore, investigators have recently shown that early postoperative oral feeding is safe and generally well tolerated. This study was aimed to determine whether or not early postoperative feeding is safe after elective colorectal surgery. METHODS: All patients who underwent elective colorectal surgeries between June 1998 and March 1999 were permitted to take oral intake one day after the operations. The patients were compared with other patients, who had underwent elective colorectal surgeries between September 1997 and June 1998 and permitted to have a meal after resolving postoperative ileus. The nasogastric tube was removed from all patients immediately after surgery. The patients were monitored for the time of ileus resolution, nausea/vomiting, abdominal distension, nasogastric tube reinsertion and complications. RESULTS: Fifty-one patients were studied, 24 patients in early feeding group and 27 patients in traditional feeding group. Eighteen patients (75.0%) in the early feeding group tolerated the early oral intake. There were no significant differences between two groups in the time for resolution of ileus (3.46 1.38 days vs 3.56 1.80 days), nausea/vomiting (33.3% vs 29.6%), abdominal distension (16.6% vs 14.8%) and nasogastric tube reinsertion (12.5% vs 7.4%). No significant difference was noted in complications such as wound infection, pulmonary problems, intestinal obstruction and anastomotic leak. CONCLUSIONS: Early oral intake after elective colorectal surgery was safe and most of the patients tolerated it. And it may become a kind of managements after elective colorectal surgery.