The Effect of Vitamin C on Clinical Outcome in Critically Ill Patients: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Crit Care Med. 2019 Jun;47(6):774-783. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000003700.


Objectives: The effects of vitamin C administration on clinical outcome in critically ill patients remain controversial.

Data sources: Online databases were searched up to October 1, 2018.

Study selection: We included randomized controlled trials on the use of vitamin C (any regimen) in adult critically ill patients versus placebo or no therapy.

Data extraction: Risk ratio for dichotomous outcome and standardized mean difference for continuous outcome with 95% CI were calculated using random-effects model meta-analysis.

Data synthesis: Forty-four randomized studies, 16 performed in ICU setting (2,857 patients) and 28 in cardiac surgery (3,598 patients), published between 1995 and 2018, were included in the analysis. In ICU patients, vitamin C administration was not associated with a difference in mortality (risk ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.74-1.10; p = 0.31), acute kidney injury, ICU or hospital length of stay compared with control. In cardiac surgery, vitamin C was associated to a reduction in postoperative atrial fibrillation (risk ratio, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.52-0.78; p < 0.0001), ICU stay (standardized mean difference, -0.28 d; 95% CI, -0.43 to -0.13 d; p = 0.0003), and hospital stay (standardized mean difference, -0.30 d; 95% CI, -0.49 to -0.10 d; p = 0.002). Furthermore, no differences in postoperative mortality, acute kidney injury, stroke, and ventricular arrhythmia were found.

Conclusions: In a mixed population of ICU patients, vitamin C administration is associated with no significant effect on survival, length of ICU or hospital stay. In cardiac surgery, beneficial effects on postoperative atrial fibrillation, ICU or hospital length of stay remain unclear. However, the quality and quantity of evidence is still insufficient to draw firm conclusions, not supporting neither discouraging the systematic administration of vitamin C in these populations. Vitamin C remains an attractive intervention for future investigations aimed to improve clinical outcome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / epidemiology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Critical Illness / mortality*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antioxidants
  • Ascorbic Acid