Perioperative omega-3 fatty acids fail to confer protection in liver surgery: Results of a multicentric, double-blind, randomized controlled trial

J Hepatol. 2020 Mar;72(3):498-505. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.10.004. Epub 2019 Oct 15.


Background & aims: In a variety of animal models, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Ω3-FAs) conferred strong protective effects, alleviating hepatic ischemia/reperfusion injury and steatosis, as well as enhancing regeneration after major tissue loss. Given these benefits along with its safety profile, we hypothesized that perioperative administration of Ω3-FAs in patients undergoing liver surgery may ameliorate the postoperative course. The aim of this study was to investigate the perioperative use of Ω3-FAs to reduce postoperative complications after liver surgery.

Methods: Between July 2013 and July 2018, we carried out a multicentric, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial designed to test whether 2 single intravenous infusions of Omegaven® (Ω3-FAs) vs. placebo may decrease morbidity. The primary endpoints were postoperative complications by severity (Clavien-Dindo classification) integrated within the comprehensive complication index (CCI).

Results: A total of 261 patients (132 in the Omegaven and 129 in the placebo groups) from 3 centers were included in the trial. Most cases (87%, n = 227) underwent open liver surgery and 56% (n = 105) were major resections (≥3 segments). In an intention-to-treat analysis including the dropout cases, the mortality rate was 4% and 2% in the Omegaven and placebo groups (odds ratio0.40;95% CI 0.04-2.51; p = 0.447), respectively. Any complications and major complications (Clavien-Dindo ≥ 3b) occurred in 46% vs. 43% (p = 0.709) and 12% vs. 10% (p = 0.69) in the Omegaven and placebo groups, respectively. The mean CCI was 17 (±23) vs.14 (±20) (p = 0.417). An analysis excluding the dropouts provided similar results.

Conclusions: The routine perioperative use of 2 single doses of intravenous Ω3-FAs (100 ml Omegaven) cannot be recommended in patients undergoing liver surgery (Grade A recommendation).

Lay summary: Despite strong evidence of omega-3 fatty acids having liver-directed, anti-inflammatory and pro-regenerative action in various rodent models, 2 single omega-3 fatty acid infusions given to patients before and during liver surgery failed to reduce complications. Because single omega-3 fatty acid infusions failed to confer liver protection in this trial, they cannot currently be recommended.

Trial registration: ID: NCT01884948; Institution Ethical Board Approval: KEK-ZH-Nr. 2010-0038; Swissmedic Notification: 2012DR3215.

Keywords: CCI; Clavien-Dindo classification; Comprehensive complication index; Major liver surgery; Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids; Omegaven; Ω3-FAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Associated data