Optimal protein requirements during the first 2 weeks after the onset of critical illness

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To obtain optimal protein requirements in critically ill sepsis or trauma patients during the first 2 wks after admission to the intensive care unit.


Retrospective study.


Department of critical care medicine at a teaching hospital.


Immediate posttrauma patients or severely septic patients.


In vivo neutron activation analysis was used to measure changes in total body protein over a 10-day perlod which began as soon as the patients were hemodynamically stable. The patients (trauma, n = 18; sepsis, n = 5) were divided into three groups according to the average daily protein intakes. Because the patients were overhydrated ([similar]10 L) and had variable amounts of body fat, the protein intakes were indexed to normally hydrated (corrected) fat-free mass (FFMc): Groups A, B, and C received an average of 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9 g/kg FFMc/day protein, respectively.

Measurements and Main Results

Overall, the average loss of total body protein was 1.2 +/- 0.7 (SD) kg. Changes In total body protein were significantly (p = .011) different between the three groups. The loss of body protein was significantly more in group A compared with groups B (p = .013) and C (p = .023). When the protein intake was increased from 1.1 g/kg FFMc/day to 1.5 g/kg FFMc/day, protein loss was halved. Further increase in protein intake up to 1.9 g/kg FFMc/day resulted in no further improvement. An intake of 1.5 g/kg FFMc/day was equivalent to 1.0 g/day/kg of body weight measured at the begining of the study.


Current recommended protein requirements of 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight/day are excessive if they are indexed to the body weight measured soon after the onset of critical illness. Because Individual patients have varying degrees of overhydration early in the illness onset, we suggest that the intensivist should obtain information on preillness body weight and prescribe 1.2 g of protein/kg body weight/day. If information is not available, 1.0 g of protein/day/kg of measured body weight will give a fair approximation to optimal protein requirements. (Crit Care Med 1998; 26:1529-1535)

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