One hundred nineteen patients were entered onto a randomized trial of the role of intravenous hyperalimentation (IVH) in patients with small-cell lung cancer. IVH was given during the first 30 days of induction chemotherapy to 54 patients. IVH did not effect any improvement in response or survival from therapy. In view of the lack of benefits from IVH, an analysis was made of the toxicities suffered by the 54 patients receiving IVH as well as any effects IVH might have made on chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Toxicities observed included mechanical difficulties with the catheter leading to temporary or permanent discontinuation of the IVH (11 patients), subclavian vein thrombosis (one patient), sepsis in nine patients v none of the 62 control patients, fluid overload (27 patients), hyponatremia (25 patients), and hyperglycemia requiring insulin (13 patients). Patients receiving IVH had higher granulocyte counts on days 14 and 21 of the first cycle of chemotherapy. Analysis shows that this difference is likely caused by fever and infection associated with IVH rather than any nutritional effect on granulopoiesis. In this population of patients, IVH had significant complications but did not ameliorate chemotherapy-induced toxicity and it did not effect any clinical benefit. Future studies of adjunctive nutritional therapy must consider the significant risk in this older population and must limit IVH volume or exclude patients with even mild compromise in cardiovascular functions. Further, any new trial must have a significant rationale for adjunctive use to justify the potential risks.