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Temporal changes in whole-blood and plasma glutathione in ICU patients with multiple organ failure

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This study investigated the temporal changes in whole-blood and plasma glutathione in ICU patients with multiple organ failure.

Design and setting

Prospective and descriptive pilot study performed in an ICU with eight beds at a university hospital.


Critically ill patients (n=11) with multiple organ failure and ICU stay of at least 6 days were consecutively included. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n=21) and healthy volunteers (n=10) were used as reference groups.

Measurements and results

Whole-blood and plasma glutathione were measured every 72 h. Total glutathione and the reduced fraction were determined in whole blood. The oxidized fraction and the redox status were calculated from these values. In plasma only the total concentration was determined. Patients were studied for 6–15 days. Nutrition was supplied according to routines supplying basal needs including glutamine. Both total and reduced glutathione was found to be depleted in whole blood compared to the reference groups. Redox status indicated continuing oxidative stress. Plasma glutathione showed higher values in total concentrations than the reference groups.


This study demonstrates that glutathione remains depleted in whole blood. This contrasts to what has previously been shown in skeletal muscle where a restitution of glutathione concentration is seen.

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The study was supported by grants from the Swedish Medical Research council (project 04210 and 14244). We thank Lisselott Thunblad for her excellent technical assistance and Viveka Gustavsson and Ingegerd Johansson for their expert nursing assistance.

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Correspondence to U. B. Fläring.

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Fläring, U.B., Rooyackers, O.E., Hebert, C. et al. Temporal changes in whole-blood and plasma glutathione in ICU patients with multiple organ failure. Intensive Care Med 31, 1072–1078 (2005).

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  • Human
  • Glutathione
  • Cysteine
  • Critically illness
  • Oxidative stress
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease