Objective: To test the hypothesis that administration of albumin to correct hypoalbuminemia might have beneficial effects on organ function in a mixed population of critically ill patients.
Design: : Prospective, controlled, randomized study.
Setting: Thirty-one-bed, mixed medicosurgical department of intensive care.
Patients: All adult patients with a serum albumin concentration < or =30 g/L were assessed for eligibility. Principal exclusion criteria were expected length of stay <72 hrs, life expectancy <3 months or a do-not-resuscitate order, albumin administration in the preceding 24 hrs, or evidence of fluid overload.
Interventions: The 100 patients were randomized to receive 300 mL of 20% albumin solution on the first day, then 200 mL/day provided their serum albumin concentration was <31 g/dL (albumin group), or to receive no albumin (control group).
Measurements and main results: The primary outcome was the effect of albumin administration on organ function as assessed by a delta Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score from day 1 to day 7 (or the day of intensive care discharge or death, whichever came first). The two groups of 50 patients were comparable at baseline for age, gender, albumin concentration, and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score. Albumin concentration did not change over time in the control group but increased consistently in the albumin group (p < .001). Organ function improved more in the albumin than in the control group (p = .026), mainly due to a difference in respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous system components of the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score. Diuretic use was identical in both groups, but mean fluid gain was almost three times higher in the control group (1679 +/- 1156 vs. 658 +/- 1101 mL, p = .04). Median daily calorie intake was higher in the albumin than in the control group (1122 [935-1158] vs. 760 [571-1077] kcal, p = .05).
Conclusions: Albumin administration may improve organ function in hypoalbuminemic critically ill patients. It results in a less positive fluid balance and a better tolerance to enteral feeding.