Brain injury patients have higher energy and protein expenditures and are prone to infections. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the results of early enteral feeding with glutamine and probiotics in brain injury patients. Twenty-three brain injury patients (Glasgow score between 5–12 and therapeutic intervention scoring system>20) were studied. Three patients were excluded to leave 20 remaining patients. Patients were randomized to receive either an early enteral diet (control group, n=10) or the same formula with glutamine and probiotics added (study group, n=10) for a minimum of 5 days (range, 5–14 days). The diets were isocaloric and isonitrogenous [35 kcal·kg-1·day-1 (where 1 kcal≈4.184 kJ) and 1.5 g of protein·kg-1·day-1]. Main outcome measures were the incidence of infection, the length of stay in the intensive care unit and the number of days requiring mechanical ventilation. The two groups were homogeneous in gender, age, nutritional status and severity of trauma. There was no mortality during the study period. The infection rate was higher in controls (100%) when compared with the study group (50%; P=0.03) and the median (range) number of infections per patient was significantly greater (P<0.01) in the control group [3 (1–5)] compared with the study group [1 (0–3)]. Both the critical care unit stay [22 (7–57) compared with 10 (5–20) days; P<0.01; median (range)] and days of mechanical ventilation [14 (3–53) compared with 7 (1–15) days; P=0.04; median (range)] were higher in the patients in the control group than in the study group. We conclude that the enteral formula containing glutamine and probiotics decreased the infection rate and shortened the stay in the intensive care unit of brain injury patients.

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