To help healthcare providers stay abreast of the latest and ever-changing developments in clinical nutrition, the Journal of Parenteral and External Nutrition (JPEN) makes research available as soon as possible. The following is a JPEN's OnlineFirst article, which was published online before it appears in a regular issue of the Journal:

Glutamine and Antioxidants in the Critically Ill Patient: A Post Hoc Analysis of a Large-Scale Randomized Trial

A common practice for patients with multiorgan failure in intensive care units (ICUs) may actually increase the risk of patient death, according to research published in the online issue of the Journal of Parenteral and External Nutrition (JPEN), the flagship journal of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.).

Researchers with the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group found that patients who received glutamine supplements either alone or combined with antioxidants had a significantly higher mortality rate than those who did not receive supplements.

Study author Daren K. Heyland, MD, of Kingston General Hospital, Canada, reports that he and fellow researchers discovered that ICU patients with multiorgan failure who received the supplements had a four to eight percent higher mortality rate than those who received a placebo. It was also found that supplements were most harmful in patients with baseline renal dysfunction.

Glutamine supplements have been commonly given to ICU patients with multiorgan failure to replace key nutrients that are often lacking. These nutrients play a central role in the body's immune system reaction to infections, a common problem in ICUs. Patients infected in ICUs are twice as likely to die during treatment as compared with noninfected patients. Supplements are also used to combat muscle mass loss during prolonged ICU stays.

While it is vital to keep ICU patients strong enough to fight off infections, the current method may be too harmful to continue for patients with multiorgan failure based on this new study. Until more safety and efficacy data become available, the study's researchers suggest that glutamine and antioxidants not be administered to critically ill patients with multiorgan failure, particularly those with concomitant acute renal failure.