Selenium (Se) is an essential nutrient for human beings, with serious consequences resulting from clinical deficiency. It therefore should be provided intravenously to all patients who require parenteral nutrition (PN). Moreover, because the effects of suboptimal status are variable and unclear, this supplementation should be provided from the beginning of the course of PN. In most patients receiving PN at home or after surgery, 60-100 mcg/day will meet their requirements. Patients who commence PN already depleted in selenium may require more. Critically ill patients or those with severe burns may have higher requirements. There is good evidence that up to 400 mcg/day is beneficial in burn patients, but the evidence is inconclusive regarding the benefit of high-dose selenium in severe sepsis. Where increased Se provision is used, or in long-term PN, selenium status should be monitored by measurement of plasma Se together with a measure of systemic inflammatory response syndrome, such as C-reactive protein. There are many research issues, including which biochemical measurements best reflect tissue function, especially immune function in seriously ill patients, the clinical consequences of suboptimal biochemical Se status, whether high-dose Se improves outcome in critically ill patients, and whether extra Se always should be given with extra intakes of other antioxidants.