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J Surg Res. 2003 Feb;109(2):144-8.

Ascorbic acid dynamics in the seriously ill and injured.

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Department of Surgery, Carraway Methodist Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama 32234, USA.



In addition to the known beneficial effects of ascorbic acid on wound healing and the immune response, it is also a potent extracellular antioxidant. Recent work in septic rats suggests that high-dose ascorbic acid total parenteral nutrition (TPN) supplementation may protect cells from free radical injury and improve survival. In this study, we determined ascorbic acid levels in the immediate post-injury/illness period and evaluated the ability of early short-term high levels of ascorbic acid in TPN to normalize plasma levels.


Ascorbic acid levels were determined in 12 critically injured patients and 2 patients with severe surgical infections. Each patient received TPN supplemented with increasing doses of ascorbic acid over a 6-day period. Therapeutic responses were determined by plasma and urine measurements using high-pressure liquid chromatography.


The initial mean +/- SEM baseline plasma ascorbic acid concentration was depressed (0.11 +/- 0.03 mg/dl) and unresponsive following 2 days on 300 mg/day supplementation (0.14 +/- 0.03; P = 1.0) and only approached low normal plasma levels following 2 days on 1000 mg/day (0.32 +/- 0.08; P = 0.36). A significant increase was noted following 2 days on 3000 mg/day (1.2 +/- 0.03; P = 0.005).


We confirmed extremely low plasma levels of ascorbic acid following trauma and infection. Maximal early repletion of this vitamin requires rapid pool filling early in the post-injury period using supraphysiologic doses for 3 or more days.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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