The decision about whether to institute aggressive nutritional support, with its attendant expense and potential morbidity, in critically ill patients remains controversial. We studied numerous commonly used variables for assessment of nutrition to identify critically ill patients at increased risk for the development of infection, for becoming ventilator dependent, and for mortality. We enrolled 111 patients in this study on their third day in the intensive-care unit (ICU). No attempt was made to influence nutritional support, nor was adequacy of such support studied. Although several measurements correlated with outcome, the serum albumin correlated with number of ICU days (r = −0.38; P<0.001), with the number of days on a ventilator, and with the number of hospital days. It was the only measurement that correlated with the development of both a new infection (P<0.05) and ventilator dependency (P = 0.002). Although the use of the serum albumin concentration in this setting has limitations, it is still the best, most commonly used measurement of nutrition available.
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