Intravenous high-dose vitamin C monotherapy for sepsis and septic shock: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Medicine (Baltimore). 2023 Oct 20;102(42):e35648. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000035648.


Background: Vitamin C has been used as an adjuvant in the treatment of sepsis and septic shock; however, its role remains controversial. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of intravenous high-dose vitamin C in sepsis and septic shock patients by meta-analysis.

Methods: The PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library electronic databases were searched to identify relevant studies. The primary outcome was defined as the short-term all-cause mortality rate. Secondary outcomes included duration of vasoactive drug use, intensive care unit length of stay, sequential organ failure assessment scores up to 96 hours after treatment and 90-day mortality. Review Manager version 5.4 was used to perform the meta-analysis. Relative risk and mean differences (MD) with 95% confidence intervals were determined using fixed- or random-effects models.

Results: Eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comprising 1394 patients were eligible for assessment. Overall, the pooled results showed that high-dose vitamin C decreased short-term all-cause mortality in patients with sepsis, but no significant differences were observed in patients with septic shock. Additionally, high-dose vitamin C was associated with decreased duration of vasoactive drug use in patients with sepsis, but not in patients with septic shock. However, it did not significantly affect the duration of intensive care unit stay in RCTs of patients with sepsis and septic shock. Additionally, it did not significantly affect sequential organ failure assessment scores 96 hours post-treatment or 90-day mortality.

Conclusion: These results suggest that intravenous high-dose vitamin C may improve outcomes in patients with sepsis, but do not benefit patients with septic shock. Further RCTs and other studies should be conducted to determine whether vitamin C should be recommended as an adjunctive sepsis treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sepsis*
  • Shock, Septic*


  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Antineoplastic Agents