Purpose of review: Micronutrients have essential antioxidant and immune functions, while low blood concentrations are frequently observed in critically ill patients. This has led to the concepts of complementation, repletion, or even pharmacological supplementation. Over the last three decades, many clinical studies have tested the latter strategy, with controversial or negative results. Therefore, this review aims at evaluating micronutrient-related interventions that are mandatory or need to be assessed in future trials or clinical registries in all or specific critically ill patients.
Recent findings: In the critically ill, low plasma/serum micronutrient levels not always reflect a true deficiency in the absence of demonstrable losses. Current practices of micronutrient provision and monitoring in critical care, vary substantially across the world. Also, recent clinical trials testing high dose as monotherapy (selenium, thiamine, vitamin C, vitamin D) or in combination have failed to demonstrate clinical benefits in sepsis. However, these studies have not applied a physiological integrative approach of micronutrient action.
Summary: Micronutrients are essential in nutrition but their administration and monitoring are difficult. So far, different well designed RCTs on intravenous and oral high dose micronutrient supplementation have been conducted. Nevertheless, very high-dose single micronutrients cannot be advocated at this stage in sepsis, or any other critical condition. By contrast, studies using combination of moderate doses of micronutrients in specific diseases, such as burns and trauma have been associated with improved outcomes. Intravenous administration seems to be the most efficient route. Future clinical trials need to integrate the physiology underlying the interconnected micronutrient activity, and choose more specific primary and secondary endpoints.