BACKGROUND: We investigated the effects of early immunonutrition on the development of nosocomial infections and clinical outcome in intensive care patients. METHODS: Thirty mechanically ventilated patients were randomly assigned to two enteral nutrition regimens in the intensive care unit. Fifteen patients (8 males, 7 females; mean age 54 years; range 21 to 72 years) received immunonutrition solution containing arginine, nucleotides, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, while controls (10 males, 5 females; mean age 55 years; range 24 to 78 years) received isocaloric solution. The patients were evaluated daily using the
APACHE II and SOFA (Simplified Organ Failure Assessment) scoring systems. Infections were sought in tracheal, blood, urine,
and catheter cultures. Changes in nitrogen balance, leukocyte count, and APACHE II and SOFA scores were compared. RESULTS: Significant changes in nitrogen balance, APACHE II and SOFA scores, and leukocyte count were found in the study group (p<0.001, p<0.0001, p<0.0001, p<0.05, respectively), whereas no significant differences were detected in the control group. Cultures were positive in nine patients in the immunonutrition group, and in 12 patients in the control group. Septic shock and mortality rates were 26% and 20% in the study patients, and 40% and 33% in the controls, respectively (p>0.05). CONCLUSION: Patients receiving immunonutrition exhibit better nutritional status and improved scores showing clinical severity and organ failure.