Randomised trial of glutamine, selenium, or both, to supplement parenteral nutrition for critically ill patients

BMJ. 2011 Mar 17:342:d1542. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d1542.


Objective: To determine whether inclusion of glutamine, selenium, or both in a standard isonitrogenous, isocaloric preparation of parenteral nutrition influenced new infections and mortality among critically ill patients.

Design: Randomised, double blinded, factorial, controlled trial.

Setting: Level 2 and 3 (or combined) critical care units in Scotland. All 22 units were invited, and 10 participated.

Participants: 502 adults in intensive care units and high dependency units for ≥ 48 hours, with gastrointestinal failure and requiring parenteral nutrition.

Interventions: Parenteral glutamine (20.2 g/day) or selenium (500 μg/day), or both, for up to seven days.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcomes were participants with new infections in the first 14 days and mortality. An intention to treat analysis and a prespecified analysis of patients who received ≥ 5 days of the trial intervention are presented. Secondary outcomes included critical care unit and acute hospital lengths of stay, days of antibiotic use, and modified SOFA (Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment) score.

Results: Selenium supplementation did not significantly affect patients developing a new infection (126/251 v 139/251, odds ratio 0.81 (95% CI 0.57 to 1.15)), except for those who had received ≥ 5 days of supplementation (odds ratio 0.53 (0.30 to 0.93)). There was no overall effect of glutamine on new infections (134/250 v 131/252, odds ratio 1.07 (0.75 to 1.53)), even if patients received ≥ 5 days of supplementation (odds ratio 0.99 (0.56 to 1.75)). Six month mortality was not significantly different for selenium (107/251 v 114/251, odds ratio 0.89 (0.62 to 1.29)) or glutamine (115/250 v 106/252, 1.18 (0.82 to 1.70)). Length of stay, days of antibiotic use, and modified SOFA score were not significantly affected by selenium or glutamine supplementation.

Conclusions: The primary (intention to treat) analysis showed no effect on new infections or on mortality when parenteral nutrition was supplemented with glutamine or selenium. Patients who received parenteral nutrition supplemented with selenium for ≥ 5 days did show a reduction in new infections. This finding requires confirmation. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN87144826.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness / mortality
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Cross Infection / mortality
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Glutamine / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenteral Nutrition*
  • Quality of Life
  • Selenium / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Drug Combinations
  • Glutamine
  • Selenium

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN87144826