Endogenous production of glutamine may become insufficient during critical illness. The shortage of glutamine is reflected as a decrease in plasma concentration, which is a prognostic factor for poor outcome in sepsis. Because glutamine is a precursor for nucleotide synthesis, rapidly dividing cells are most likely to suffer from a shortage. Therefore, exogenous glutamine supplementation is necessary. In particular, when i.v. nutrition is given, extra glutamine supplementation becomes critical, because most present formulations for i.v. use do not contain any glutamine for technical reasons. The major part of endogenously produced glutamine comes from skeletal muscle. For patients staying a long time in the intensive care unit (ICU), the muscle mass decreases rapidly, which leaves a tissue of diminishing size to maintain the export of glutamine. The metabolic and nutritional adaptation in long-staying ICU patients is poorly studied and is one of the fields that needs more scientific evidence for clinical recommendations. To date, there is evidence to support the clinical use of glutamine supplementation in critically ill patients, in hematology patients, and in oncology patients. Strong evidence is presently available for i.v. glutamine supplementation to critically ill patients on parenteral nutrition. This must be regarded as the standard of care. For patients on enteral nutrition, more evidence is needed. To guide administration of glutamine, there are good arguments to use measurement of plasma glutamine concentration for guidance. This will give an indication for treatment as well as proper dosing. Most patients will have a normalized plasma glutamine concentration by adding 20–25 g/24 h. Furthermore, there are no reported adverse or negative effects attributable to glutamine supplementation.
Jan Wernerman Clinical Use of Glutamine Supplementation Journal of Nutrition 2008 October Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet, 14186 Stockholm, Sweden.