Seriously ill patients who receive vitamins C and E may be less likely to develop certain complications after surgery, report researchers in the US.
Researchers at the Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington in the US found that giving critically ill surgical patients antioxidant supplements of alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid reduced the incidence of organ failure and shortened length of stay in intensive care.
The researchers noted that oxidative stress had been associated with the development of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure through direct tissue injury and activation of genes integral to the inflammatory response. In addition, depletion of endogenous antioxidants has been associated with an increased risk of infections during hospital treatment.
The authors considered that giving antioxidant supplements to critically ill surgical patients may reduce the incidence of ARDS, pneumonia and organ dysfunction.
The researchers enrolled 595 patients in the study, 91 per cent of whom were victims of trauma. They found that multiple organ failure was significantly less likely to occur in patients receiving antioxidants than in patients receiving standard care. Patients randomised to antioxidant supplements also had a shorter duration of mechanical ventilation and length of ICU stay.
However, there were no differences in the impact on pulmonary morbidity.
"These data suggest the potential for benefit if antioxidants are administered prophylactically, before the onset of significant organ dysfunction and infection," the researchers conclude in the December issue of Annals of Surgery.