Background: Recent trials have questioned the benefit of early parenteral nutrition in adults. The effect of early parenteral nutrition on clinical outcomes in critically ill children is unclear.
Methods: We conducted a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial involving 1440 critically ill children to investigate whether withholding parenteral nutrition for 1 week (i.e., providing late parenteral nutrition) in the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) is clinically superior to providing early parenteral nutrition. Fluid loading was similar in the two groups. The two primary end points were new infection acquired during the ICU stay and the adjusted duration of ICU dependency, as assessed by the number of days in the ICU and as time to discharge alive from ICU. For the 723 patients receiving early parenteral nutrition, parenteral nutrition was initiated within 24 hours after ICU admission, whereas for the 717 patients receiving late parenteral nutrition, parenteral nutrition was not provided until the morning of the 8th day in the ICU. In both groups, enteral nutrition was attempted early and intravenous micronutrients were provided.
Results: Although mortality was similar in the two groups, the percentage of patients with a new infection was 10.7% in the group receiving late parenteral nutrition, as compared with 18.5% in the group receiving early parenteral nutrition (adjusted odds ratio, 0.48; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.35 to 0.66). The mean (±SE) duration of ICU stay was 6.5±0.4 days in the group receiving late parenteral nutrition, as compared with 9.2±0.8 days in the group receiving early parenteral nutrition; there was also a higher likelihood of an earlier live discharge from the ICU at any time in the late-parenteral-nutrition group (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.37). Late parenteral nutrition was associated with a shorter duration of mechanical ventilatory support than was early parenteral nutrition (P=0.001), as well as a smaller proportion of patients receiving renal-replacement therapy (P=0.04) and a shorter duration of hospital stay (P=0.001). Late parenteral nutrition was also associated with lower plasma levels of γ-glutamyltransferase and alkaline phosphatase than was early parenteral nutrition (P=0.001 and P=0.04, respectively), as well as higher levels of bilirubin (P=0.004) and C-reactive protein (P=0.006).
Conclusions: In critically ill children, withholding parenteral nutrition for 1 week in the ICU was clinically superior to providing early parenteral nutrition. (Funded by the Flemish Agency for Innovation through Science and Technology and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01536275.).