Sepsis remains a leading cause of death in the critically ill. The combination of thiamine, vitamin C, and hydrocortisone has recently emerged as a potential adjunctive therapy and supportive care for patients with sepsis and septic shock.
Areas of Uncertainty:
Several randomized and observational controlled trials evaluated the role of vitamin C in sepsis and septic shock. However, there are variabilities in the findings of these studies that led to a substantial global debate on incorporating vitamin C therapy in clinical practice.
A PubMed and Embase English language literature search through April 2021 was performed using the following terms: ascorbic acid, vitamin C, corticosteroid, hydrocortisone, thiamine, HAT, sepsis, and shock. Citations, including controlled trials, observational studies, review articles, guidelines, and consensus statements, were reviewed. The risk of bias for each clinical study was systematically evaluated. Relevant clinical data focusing on efficacy, safety, and special considerations regarding the use of vitamin C with and without thiamine and hydrocortisone in sepsis and septic shock were narratively summarized.
The most commonly used vitamin C dosing in sepsis and septic shock is 1.5 g every 6 hours with and without thiamine and hydrocortisone. Current literature is limited because of heterogeneity in vitamin C regimen used, initiation time, and duration of treatment. This limitation led to variability in outcomes evaluated. Vitamin C decreases proinflammatory mediators and slows the progression of endothelial injury in severe sepsis. There is an inconsistency between randomized controlled trials and observational controlled trials regarding mortality, resolution in organ failure, hospital and intensive care unit length of stay findings with the use of vitamin C in septic shock. Vitamin C seems to be safe in comparison with placebo.
Future studies with consistent end points, initiation time with an emphasis on early initiation, and standard vitamin C dosing regimen are needed to determine the overall benefit of vitamin C in sepsis.