Intestinal failure, often caused by a shortened or dysfunctional bowel, is a serious condition that affects young children in particular who are unable to consume food in a normal manner.
In the majority of cases a nutritional mix of sugar, protein and fat from soybean oil is injected through a small tube in their vein and serves as a gateway to bowel adaptation, allowing the intestine to recover and improve its capacity to absorb nutrition.
The soybean oil has been associated with a lethal complication known as intestinal failure associated liver disease. In the majority of cases a liver or intestinal transplant may be required which has a 5 year survival rate of 50%.
A clinical study at the Children’s discovery and Innovation Institute at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, (published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition), has found that compared with soybean oil, a small quantify of fish oil is safe and effective in reversing liver disease in children with intestinal failure who require intravenous nutrition.
In the study, intravenous soybean oil was replaced with intravenous fish oil in 10 patients between the ages of 2 weeks and 18 years who had advanced intestinal failure-associated liver disease and who were at high risk for death and/or transplant.
The research findings demonstrate that those children who received fish oil had a higher rate of liver disease reversal than the children who received the soybean cocktail. Nearly 80 percent of fish oil patients experienced a reversal of their liver disease, while only 5 percent of the soybean patients saw a reversal.
“With this particular study, we set out to determine if a finite period of six months of intravenous fish oil could safely reverse liver damage in these children, and we have had some promising results,” said lead author Dr. Kara Calkins, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics in the division of neonatology and developmental biology at UCLA. “But because intravenous fish oil is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is much more costly than soybean oil, it is typically not covered by insurance. As a result, this oil is considered experimental and is currently available only under special protocols. If it proves safe and effective for patients, we hope it would eventually be available for wider use.”
K. L. Calkins, J. C. Y. Dunn, S. B. Shew, L. Reyen, D. G. Farmer, S. U. Devaskar, R. S. Venick. Pediatric Intestinal Failure-Associated Liver Disease Is Reversed With 6 Months of Intravenous Fish Oil. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0148607113495416