A prospective comparative study of moderate versus high protein intake for critically ill patients with acute renal failure

Rinaldo Bellomo, John Seacombe, Michael Daskalakis, Michael Farmer, Christopher Wright, Geoffrey Parkin, Neil Boyce

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Critically ill patients with acute renal failure are traditionally treated with low-protein diets to help control uremia. This dietary approach may be deleterious to the patient's nutritional status and unnecessary, especially if continuous renal replacement therapies (CRRT) are used. However, the optimal amount of protein supplementation during CRRT is unknown. In patients receiving CRRT, a high protein intake may result in a positive nitrogen balance in the absence of uncontrolled uremia. Accordingly, we studied nitrogen metabolism in two consecutive cohorts of acute renal failure patients receiving equal amounts of calories but variable amounts of nitrogen. One group received protein according to the preferences of the attending clinician, the other a high and fixed amount of protein (2.5 g/kg/day). Patients treated according to attending clinician preferences received significantly less dietary protein (1.2 g/kg/day vs. 2.5 g/kg/day; p < 0.0001) and had a negative mean nitrogen 1 balance of -5.5 g/day. Patients receiving a high and fixed amount of protein had a less negative mean nitrogen balance (-1.92 g/day). Such patients were more likely to experience a positive nitrogen balance during any 24-h period (53.6% vs. 36.7%; p < 0.05). They also required more aggressive hemofiltration to maintain control of uremia (mean ultradiafiltrate volume: 2145 mL/h vs. 1658 mL/h; p < 0.0001) and had a significantly higher but still acceptable mean plasma urea level (26.6 mmol/L vs. 18 mmol/L; p < 0.0001). Survival was not significantly different in the two groups (37.5% vs. 31.3%). We conclude that a high- protein diet can be safely administered to critically ill patients with acute renal failure receiving continuous renal replacement therapy. Such a high protein intake improves nitrogen balance when compared to moderate protein intake. A low protein intake is unnecessary in patients treated with CRRT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalRenal Failure
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute renal failure
  • Critical illness
  • Dialysis
  • Hemofiltration
  • Parenteral nutrition
  • Protein

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