Antioxidant therapy in the prevention of organ dysfunction syndrome and infectious complications after trauma: early results of a prospective randomized study

Am Surg. 1999 May;65(5):478-83.


Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in the etiology of multiorgan dysfunction syndrome and infectious complications in trauma patients by either direct cellular toxicity and/or the activation of intracellular signaling pathways. Studies have shown that the antioxidant defenses of the body are decreased in trauma patients; these include glutathione, for which N-acetylcysteine is a precursor, and selenium, which is a cofactor for glutathione. Eighteen trauma patients were prospectively randomized to a control or antioxidant group where they received N-acetylcysteine, selenium, and vitamins C and E for 7 days. As compared with the controls, the antioxidant group showed fewer infectious complications (8 versus 18) and fewer organs dysfunctioning (0 versus 9). There were no deaths in either group. We conclude that these preliminary data may support a role for the use of this antioxidant mixture to decrease the incidence of multiorgan dysfunction syndrome and infectious complications in the severely injured patient. This remains to be confirmed in larger trials.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infections / drug therapy*
  • Infections / etiology
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Multiple Organ Failure / etiology
  • Multiple Organ Failure / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / drug therapy*


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Acetylcysteine