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Ann Surg. 1980;192(4):570-80.

Septic autocannibalism. A failure of exogenous nutritional support.


Forty-six patients with surgical sepsis were studied prospectively until death or survival to evaluate the effect of exogenous metabolic support on the observed plasma substrate levels and on the differential endogenous utilization of branch chain amino acids. There were no effects of administered glucose or colloid load. The administered amino acid load had little effect on substrate levels in patients who died; but significantly effected the observed levels of glycine, isoleucine, and methionine in patients who survived. Evidence is presented which suggests that fatal sepsis is associated with an increased release of endogenous valine and isoleucine into plasma, as well as increased plasma levels of tyrosine, proline, and methionine. These abnormalities are highly correlated with the increased levels of plasma alanine and occur at a time when the nonsurviving septic patient manifests a tendency toward reduced oxygen consumption and abnormal vascular tone relations--the septic B state. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that increased muscle protein catabolism is occurring with a differential utilization of branch chain amino acids and increased use of leucine and isoleucine and reduced use of valine. This autocannibalism of muscle mass appears to be the source of the increased plasma alanine and is little influenced by administered amino acid support in the absence of control of the septic process.

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