Plasma glutamine levels in critically ill intensive care patients
Background Nutritional treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU) has evolved from meeting nutritional requirements to manipulating patient outcome. Pharmaconutrition, referring to nutrients that are applied for their pharmacological properties, forms part of the standard nutritional care plan. The most abundant amino acid in the body, glutamine, is also the most-researched pharmaconutrient. It is an independent predictor of mortality in ICU patients, at both deficient and very high levels. Glutamine supplementation is recommended in the ICU setting for its proven outcome benefits. However, recent data showed that glutamine supplementation increases mortality risk in certain patient groups. Moreover, it suggested that not all ICU patients are glutamine deficient. Therefore, the main aim of this study was to investigate the plasma glutamine levels of adult ICU patients, on admission to the ICU. In addition, to elucidate the profile of ICU patients that can be expected to present with a glutamine deficiency or excess, with regards to gender, diagnosis and inflammatory markers. Methods In this observational, cross-sectional study, 60 mixed ICU adult patients admitted to two hospitals in the North West province were included in the study group. Blood sampling was conducted within 24 hours following ICU admission, to determine plasma glutamine, interleukin (IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. Plasma glutamine levels were compared with those of a control group of healthy individuals, matched by age, race, and gender. Gender-related differences in plasma glutamine levels were investigated, as well as differences between patients with various medical conditions. The relationship between plasma glutamine levels and IL-6 or CRP was examined. Additionally, a CRP concentration cut-off point at which glutamine becomes deficient was determined by means of a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. Results and discussion Intensive care unit patients had significantly lower plasma glutamine levels than healthy individuals on day one of ICU admission (p < 0.0001). However, only 38.3% (n = 23) had deficient plasma glutamine levels (< 420 μmol/L), while 6.7% (n = 4) presented with supra-normal levels (> 930 μmol/L). No significant difference could be detected between the plasma glutamine levels of male and female ICU patients (p = 0.116). Likewise, levels between diagnosis categories were also not significantly different (p = 0.325). There was a significant inverse association between plasma glutamine levels and CRP concentrations (r = -0.44, p < 0.05), and a trend towards an inverse association with IL-6 (r = - 0.23, p = 0.08). A CRP cut-off value of 95.5 mg/L was determined, above which plasma glutamine values became deficient; however, more research is needed to confirm this result. Conclusion and recommendations This research therefore showed that ICU patients, when compared with healthy individuals, had lower plasma glutamine levels on day one of admission to the ICU. However, not all were glutamine deficient, as the majority had normal and some presented with supra-normal plasma glutamine levels. An individualised approach should therefore be followed in identifying candidates for glutamine supplementation. The patients' condition alone may not be sufficient to predict glutamine status, but an association between plasma glutamine levels and CRP was firmly established, as well as a cut- off CRP-value above which glutamine can be expected to become deficient, which could be of use in this regard.
- Health Sciences