Enteral glutamine supplementation in critically ill patients with burn injuries: A retrospective case-control evaluation

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Study Objectives. To evaluate the clinical application of enteral glutamine supplementation in critically ill patients and compare the frequency of nosocomial infections in these patients with a historical control group in a burn intensive care unit (BICU), and to assess lengths of stay in the hospital and BICU, mortality rates, and safety profile of glutamine. Design. Retrospective case-control descriptive study Setting. A university-affiliated hospital BICU. Patients. Seventeen patients receiving enteral glutamine supplementation and 15 historical control patients who were admitted to the BICU for thermal burn injuries from January 1, 2001-September 30, 2004. Measurements and Main Results. Data for patients receiving enteral glutamine supplementation were identified through the pharmacy database, and data for the control patients were identified through the BICU patient registry. No significant differences were noted in baseline characteristics or nutritional parameters and outcomes between the two groups. The mean daily dose and duration of glutamine were 0.52 g/kg and 21.6 days, respectively. The mean number of infections/patient between the glutamine and control groups was similar (2.47 and 2.73, respectively) as was the number of gram-negative infections (1.29 and 1.20, respectively). Bloodstream infections occurred more frequently in the glutamine group (24 vs 8 patients, p=0.0006); however, cellulitis (4 vs 11, p=0.05) and pneumonia (9 vs 15, p=0.15) occurred less often. For the glutamine group versus control group, BICU length of stay (17.9 vs 15.3 days, p=NS), hospital length of stay (32.3 vs 26 days, p=NS), and mortality rates (0% vs 6.7%, P=NS) were similar between groups. No adverse events were attributed to glutamine supplementation. Conclusion. Enteral glutamine supplementation was not associated with a change in the cumulative rate of infectious complications compared with the control group, but this was attributed to more cases of bloodstream infections and fewer cases of pneumonia and cellulitis in the glutamine group. Large, prospective, randomized trials designed to detect small but clinically relevant outcomes are needed to definitively determine the effect of enteral glutamine supplementation in the BICU population.

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