Study Title:

The glutamine debate in surgery and critical care

Study Abstract

Purpose of review: Glutamine (GLN) is a versatile amino acid, long believed to have important implications in ICU and surgical patients. An extensive body of data examining GLN supplementation of TPN demonstrated a consistent signal of improved outcomes. However, recently signals of risk have come from two large-scale multicenter trials evaluating GLN (and other nutrients) at high dose and as primary pharmaconutrients, not as supplementation to complete nutrition. These trials indicate a risk of increased mortality when GLN is given to patients in shock, renal failure, and early in acute phase of critical care.

Recent findings: Recent literature continues to confirm that low and high admission GLN levels are associated with increased ICU mortality and adverse outcomes. Further, a recent meta-analysis examined trials utilizing GLN-supplemented TPN in stabile ICU patients consistent with current clinical guidelines. This analysis showed GLN supplementation of TPN led to reduced infections, LOS and hospital mortality.

Summary: Three recent meta-analyses have confirmed traditional GLN-supplemented (or 'GLN-Complemented' - providing GLN for completeness of amino acid content) TPN is safe, reduces mortality and improves outcome in surgical and ICU patients. Patients in need of TPN, burns, trauma or malignancies should continue to benefit from supplemental GLN, administered either intravenously at less than 0.35 g/kg/day or enterally at less than 0.5 g/kg/day. Further, a large trial of EN GLN supplementation in burns is ongoing. Thus, when used per guideline recommendations, the GLN story is likely still relevant to ICU outcomes and research.

Study Information

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2019 Aug;25(4):322-328. doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000633. PMID: 31247630.

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