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Changes in serum albumin concentrations over 7 days in medical inpatients with and without nutritional support. A secondary post-hoc analysis of a randomized clinical trial.

BACKGROUND: Serum albumin concentrations are frequently used to monitor nutritional therapy in the hospital setting but supporting studies are largely lacking. Within this secondary analysis of a randomized nutritional trial (EFFORT), we assessed whether nutritional support affects short-term changes in serum albumin concentrations and whether an increase in albumin concentration has prognostic implications regarding clinical outcome and response to treatment.

METHODS: We analyzed patients with available serum albumin concentrations at baseline and day 7 included in EFFORT, a Swiss-wide multicenter randomized clinical trial that compared individualized nutritional therapy with usual hospital food (control group).

RESULTS: Albumin concentrations increased in 320 of 763 (41.9%) included patients (mean age 73.3 years (SD ± 12.9), 53.6% males) with no difference between patients receiving nutritional support and controls. Compared with patients that showed a decrease in albumin concentrations over 7 days, those with an increase had a lower 180-day mortality [74/320 (23.1%) vs. 158/443 (35.7%); adjusted odds ratio 0.63, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.90; p = 0.012] and a shorter length of hospital stay [11.2 ± 7.3 vs. 8.8 ± 5.6 days, adjusted difference -2.2 days (95%CI -3.1 to -1.2)]. Patients with and without a decrease over 7 days had a similar response to nutritional support.

CONCLUSION: Results from this secondary analysis indicate that nutritional support did not increase short-term concentrations of albumin over 7 days, and changes in albumin did not correlate with response to nutritional interventions. However, an increase in albumin concentrations possibly mirroring resolution of inflammation was associated with better clinical outcomes. Repeated in-hospital albumin measurements in the short-term is, thus, not indicated for monitoring of patients receiving nutritional support but provides prognostic information.

TRAIL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT02517476.

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