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Essential fatty acid deficiency in surgical patients.

Annals of Surgery
Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer) - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Parenteral nutrition may protect patients unable to eat from malnutrition almost indefinitely. If fat is not also given EFAD will occur. This outlines a prospective study of 28 surgical patients on total intravenous fat-free nutrition to determine the developmental course of EFAD and the response to therapy. Twenty-eight patients ranging from newborn to 66 years receiving parenteral nutrition without fat had regular determinations of the composition of total plasma fatty acids and the triene/tetraene ratio using gas liquid chromatography. Physical signs of EFAD were looked for also. Patients found to have evidence of EFAD were treated with 10% Intralipid. Topical safflower oil was used in three infants. Total plasma fatty acid composition was restudied following therapy. In general, infants on fat-free intravenous nutrition developed biochemical EFAD within two weeks, but dermatitis took longer to become evident. Older individuals took over four weeks to develop a diagnostic triene/tetraene ratio (greater than 0.4; range 0.4 to 3.75). Therapeutic correction of biochemical EFAD took 7 to 10 days but dermatitis took longer to correct. Cutaneous application of safflower oil alleviated the cutaneous manifestations but did not correct the triene/tetraene ratio of total plasma fatty acids. These studies indicate that surgical patients who are unable to eat for two to four weeks, depending upon age and expected fat stores, should receive fat as a part of their intravenous regimen. Images Fig. 7.

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