Vitamin D deficiency is common in critically ill patients admitted to emergency rooms or surgical intensive care units. Acute deficiency has also been correlated to longer hospital stays. While earlier studies highlighted the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation in critically ill patients with this deficiency, according to new research, administration of high-dose vitamin D3 compared with placebo did not reduce hospital stays, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay, hospital mortality, or the risk of death at six months, among such patients. The study published in JAMA is to be presented at the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine annual congress.

While vitamin D deficiency has been associated with several conditions in the general population, its outcome in critically ill patients has not yet been established. Previous studies have indicated that low levels may contribute to disease severity, mortality, or a shorter survival time in the ICU. But whether vitamin D deficiency is brought on by the existing critical condition or if it’s an independent contributor of illnesses has not yet been determined.

To assess if vitamin D supplements could improve outcomes, Karin Amrein from the Medical University of Graz, Austria along with colleagues randomly assigned 492 adult ICU patients with vitamin D deficiency to receive either high-dose vitamin D3 (n = 249) or a placebo (n = 243).

In the primary study outcome, the length of hospital stay in the vitamin D3-administered group did not differ much from the placebo-administered group: 20.1 days vs. 19.3 days. There was also no significant difference for length of ICU stay: 9.6 days for the vitamin D3 group vs. 10.7 days for the placebo group.

Among the patients in the vitamin D3 group, 28.3 percent died in the hospital compared with 35.3 percent in the placebo group. After six months, 35 percent of the patients had died in the vitamin D3 group and 42.9 percent in the placebo group. Lower hospital mortality was observed in a subgroup of patients with severe vitamin D deficiency.

"Among patients with vitamin D deficiency who are critically ill, administration of high-dose vitamin D3 compared with placebo did not improve hospital length of stay, hospital mortality, or six-month mortality,” said the authors in a statement.

But they are quick to point that this finding should not be considered to be factual and further studies need to be conducted to assess the pros and cons of vitamin D supplementation.

Source: Amrein K, Schnedl C, Holl A, et al. Effect of High-Dose Vitamin D3 on Hospital Length of Stay in Critically Ill Patients With Vitamin D DeficiencyThe VITdAL-ICU Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2014.