The benefit of ω-3 fatty acids in fat emulsion remains controversial. This study evaluated the effect of ω-3 fatty acids on immune and inflammatory modulation in surgical intensive care unit (SICU) patients.

Thirty-eight patients admitted to the SICU after major surgery were enrolled in this prospective controlled study and randomized to receive parenteral nutrition (PN) with equal volume and calories from glucose, nitrogen, and fat but different lipid components for 7 postoperative days. Group A (n = 12) received a mixture of soybean and medium-chain triglyceride oils; group B (n = 18) received a fat emulsion with part of the lipid replaced by fish oil. Blood tests, including lipid profile, routine biochemistry, inflammatory cytokines, and lymphocyte subpopulations, were evaluated preoperatively and on postoperative days 4 and 7.

Both lipid regimens were well tolerated. There was a trend toward reduced serum inflammatory cytokines in group B vs group A with significant differences regarding interleukin (IL)-1, IL-8, and interferon (IFN)-γ on postoperative day 4 (P < .05) and IL-1, IL-8, IFN-γ, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α on postoperative day 7 (P < .05). There was a reduction in postoperative liver dysfunction (A vs B: 50% vs 33.3%) and infection rate (A vs B: 41.7% vs 27.8%) in group B, although this was not statistically significant. There was no mortality in either group.

This study suggests that supplementation of parenteral ω-3 fatty acids in PN is safe and may improve immune and hyperinflammatory response for SICU patients after major surgery.