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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 May;13(3):321-6. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283385407.

Fish oil containing intravenous lipid emulsions in parenteral nutrition-associated cholestatic liver disease.

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  • 1Division of Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine, Dr von Hauner Children's Hospital, University of Munich Medical Center, Munich, Germany.



Lipid emulsions containing fish oils have been proposed to improve parenteral nutrition associated cholestasis (PNAC), a very serious complication of prolonged parenteral nutrition occurring particularly in infants and children with intestinal failure. Here, we summarize current data.


The cause of PNAC is multifactorial. Prevention is possible by appropriate management, surgical procedures, infection prevention, and optimal parenteral nutrition management. Plausible hypotheses and experimental data support potential benefits of fish oils for treatment and prevention of PNAC. Improvement of PNAC over weeks and months has been reported in observational case studies in part of the children who received parenteral lipids with fish oil, but similar improvements also occurred by withholding or reducing standard lipid emulsions. No controlled trials are available that would allow final conclusions on efficacy and safety of fish oil-based emulsions in PNAC. Concerns exist regarding possible untoward effects and an inadequate supply of n-6 fatty acids with parenteral fish oil only. First data from controlled trials with mixed lipid emulsions containing partly fish oil suggest safety in infants and children and some possible benefits for liver function.


The observed improvement of PNAC on parenteral lipids with fish oil deserves further exploration. No controlled trials are available, nutritional adequacy and safety of 100% fish oil emulsions are not adequately documented, and currently their use cannot be considered standard care. First data on mixed lipid emulsions with some fish oil are encouraging, and their effects in PNAC should also be explored.

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