Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiac surgery patients: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Nutr. 2017 Jun;36(3):737-746. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.05.013. Epub 2016 May 27.


Background: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFA) supplementation is an attractive therapeutic option for patients undergoing open-heart surgery due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-arrhythmic properties. Several randomized controlled trials (RCT) have found contradictory results for perioperative ω-3 PUFA administration. Therefore, we conducted an updated systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the effects of perioperative ω-3 PUFA on some clinically important outcomes for cardiac surgery.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted to find RCT evaluating clinical outcomes after ω-3 PUFA therapy in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (LOS) was the primary outcome; secondary outcomes were hospital LOS, postoperative atrial fibrillation (POAF), mortality and duration of mechanical ventilation (MV). Predefined subgroup analysis and sensibility analysis were performed.

Results: A total of 19 RCT including 4335 patients met inclusion criteria. No effect of ω-3 PUFA on ICU LOS was found (weighted mean difference WMD -2.95, 95% confidence interval, CI -10.28 to 4.39, P = 0.43). However, ω-3 PUFA reduced hospital LOS (WMD -1.37, 95% CI -2.41 to -0.33; P = 0.010) and POAF incidence (Odds Ratio OR = 0.78, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.90; P = 0.004). No effects were found on mortality or MV duration. Heterogeneity remained in subgroup analysis and we found a significant POAF reduction when ω-3 PUFA doses were administered to patients exposed to extra-corporeal circulation. Oral/enteral administration seemed to further reduce POAF.

Conclusions: In patients undergoing cardiac surgery, ω-3 PUFA supplementation by oral/enteral and parenteral route reduces hospital LOS and POAF. Nonetheless considerable clinical and statistical heterogeneity weaken our findings.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Cardiac surgery; Meta-analysis; Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Perioperative Care
  • Postoperative Period
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3