N-acetylcysteine treatment to prevent the progression of multisystem organ failure: A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study

Zsolt Molnár, Euan Shearer, Derek Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

96 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To investigate whether prolonged infusion of N- acetylcysteine (NAC) that is commenced immediately after admission to the intensive care unit could ameliorate the development or progression of multisystem organ failure and improve mortality. Design: Prospective, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial. Setting: Six-bed intensive care unit in a teaching hospital. Patients: Of the 100 patients recruited (14 withdrew), 86 patients were studied. Interventions: After randomization, the treatment group (n = 41) received NAC (150 mg/kg bolus followed by a continuous infusion of 12 mg/kg/hr) and the placebo group (n = 45) received 5% dextrose, from a minimum of 3 days up to a maximum of 5 days. Measurements and Main Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups regarding outcome as indicated by mortality and the required days of inotropic support, mechanical ventilation, and intensive care. The time interval between hospital and intensive care unit admission showed great variability, with a median of 24 hrs for the whole sample. By splitting the groups with this median value, the effect of NAC was examined on patients admitted within 24 hrs and after 24 hrs of arrival to the hospital. There was a nonsignificant difference in mortality in favor of NAC. Patients admitted after 24 hrs of hospital admission had a significantly worse mortality in the NAC-treated group (61% vs. 32% for controls; p = .05). Conclusions: We found a nonsignificant difference in outcome between NAC and placebo-treated patients. Our results suggest that the initiation of NAC treatment >24 hrs after hospital admission may potentially be harmful, and further studies should be undertaken to investigate the clinical use of the early application of NAC in critically ill patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1100-1104
Number of pages5
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Antioxidants
  • Critical illness
  • Glutathione
  • Multiple organ dysfunction score
  • Multisystem organ failure
  • N-Acetylcysteine
  • Oxidative stress
  • Oxygen free radicals
  • Respiratory burst
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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