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The effect of glutamine therapy on outcomes in critically ill patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Qi-Hong Chen1, Yi Yang1, Hong-Li He1, Jian-Feng Xie1, Shi-Xia Cai1, Ai-Ran Liu1, Hua-Ling Wang2 and Hai-Bo Qiu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Zhong-Da Hospital, School of Medicine, Southeast University, 87 Dingjiaqiao Road, Nanjing 210009, P.R. China

2 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Su-Bei Hospital of Jiangsu Provience & Clinical Medical School, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, Jiangsu, P.R. China

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Critical Care 2014, 18:R8  doi:10.1186/cc13185

Published: 9 January 2014

Abstract

Introduction

Glutamine supplementation is supposed to reduce mortality and nosocomial infections in critically ill patients. However, the recently published reducing deaths due to oxidative stress (REDOX) trials did not provide evidence supporting this. This study investigated the impact of glutamine-supplemented nutrition on the outcomes of critically ill patients using a meta-analysis.

Methods

We searched for and gathered data from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, Elsevier, Web of Science and ClinicalTrials.gov databases reporting the effects of glutamine supplementation on outcomes in critically ill patients. We produced subgroup analyses of the trials according to specific patient populations, modes of nutrition and glutamine dosages.

Results

Among 823 related articles, eighteen Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) met all inclusion criteria. Mortality events among 3,383 patients were reported in 17 RCTs. Mortality showed no significant difference between glutamine group and control group. In the high dosage subgroup (above 0.5 g/kg/d), the mortality rate in the glutamine group was significantly higher than that of the control group (relative risk (RR) 1.18; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.02 to 1.38; P = 0.03). In 15 trials, which included a total of 2,862 patients, glutamine supplementation reportedly affected the incidence of nosocomial infections in the critically ill patients observed. The incidence of nosocomial infections in the glutamine group was significantly lower than that of the control group (RR 0.85; 95% CI, 0.74 to 0.97; P = 0.02). In the surgical ICU subgroup, glutamine supplementation statistically reduced the rate of nosocomial infections (RR 0.70; 95% CI, 0.52 to 0.94; P = 0.04). In the parental nutrition subgroup, glutamine supplementation statistically reduced the rate of nosocomial infections (RR 0.83; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.98; P = 0.03). The length of hospital stay was reported in 14 trials, in which a total of 2,777 patients were enrolled; however, the patient length of stay was not affected by glutamine supplementation.

Conclusions

Glutamine supplementation conferred no overall mortality and length of hospital stay benefit in critically ill patients. However, this therapy reduced nosocomial infections among critically ill patients, which differed according to patient populations, modes of nutrition and glutamine dosages.