Effects of fish oil on inflammatory modulation in surgical intensive care unit patients

Nutr Clin Pract. 2012 Feb;27(1):91-8. doi: 10.1177/0884533611429796. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


Background: The benefit of ω-3 fatty acids in fat emulsion remains controversial. This study evaluated the effect of ω-3 fatty acids on immune and inflammatory modulation in surgical intensive care unit (SICU) patients.

Methods: Thirty-eight patients admitted to the SICU after major surgery were enrolled in this prospective controlled study and randomized to receive parenteral nutrition (PN) with equal volume and calories from glucose, nitrogen, and fat but different lipid components for 7 postoperative days. Group A (n = 12) received a mixture of soybean and medium-chain triglyceride oils; group B (n = 18) received a fat emulsion with part of the lipid replaced by fish oil. Blood tests, including lipid profile, routine biochemistry, inflammatory cytokines, and lymphocyte subpopulations, were evaluated preoperatively and on postoperative days 4 and 7.

Results: Both lipid regimens were well tolerated. There was a trend toward reduced serum inflammatory cytokines in group B vs group A with significant differences regarding interleukin (IL)-1, IL-8, and interferon (IFN)-γ on postoperative day 4 (P < .05) and IL-1, IL-8, IFN-γ, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α on postoperative day 7 (P < .05). There was a reduction in postoperative liver dysfunction (A vs B: 50% vs 33.3%) and infection rate (A vs B: 41.7% vs 27.8%) in group B, although this was not statistically significant. There was no mortality in either group.

Conclusion: This study suggests that supplementation of parenteral ω-3 fatty acids in PN is safe and may improve immune and hyperinflammatory response for SICU patients after major surgery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous / chemistry
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous / pharmacology
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Diseases / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenteral Nutrition
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Soybean Oil / pharmacology
  • Soybean Oil / therapeutic use
  • Triglycerides / pharmacology
  • Triglycerides / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Triglycerides
  • Soybean Oil