Energy expenditure in acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure : Critical Care Medicine

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Clinical Investigations

Energy expenditure in acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure

Walsh, Timothy S. MRCP, FRCA; Wigmore, Stephen J. MD, FRCS; Hopton, Patrick FRCA; Richardson, Rosemary MSc; Lee, Alistair FRCA

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Critical Care Medicine 28(3):p 649-654, March 2000.



To determine energy expenditure in critically ill patients suffering from acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure and compare it with values obtained in matched, healthy control subjects and in patients studied during the anhepatic period of elective liver transplantation.


Prospective, controlled, observational study.


A ten-bed intensive therapy unit and a liver transplant unit at a University teaching hospital.

Patients and Subjects: 

Sixteen patients suffering from acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure who were sedated, paralyzed, and mechanically ventilated; 16 age-, gender-, and weight-matched, awake, healthy control subjects; and 16 patients with chronic liver disease, undergoing elective liver transplantation, who were studied during the anhepatic period of surgery.



Measurements and Main Results: 

The mean energy expenditure was calculated in each case for a 30-min period, using indirect calorimetry. In the patients undergoing liver transplantation, measurements were performed after clamping the hepatic veins and recipient hepatectomy. Energy expenditure was markedly increased in the fulminant hepatic failure group (mean energy expenditure, 4.05 [SD 0.52] kJ·kg−1·hr−1), in comparison with healthy control subjects (mean, 3.44 [0.27] kJ·kg−1·hr−1; mean difference, 18%;p< .001) and in comparison with patients during the anhepatic period of liver transplantation (mean, 3.15 [0.61] kJ·kg−1·hr−1; mean difference, 29%;p< .001). These differences were even more pronounced when a correction factor for differences in core temperature was included in the calculation. Harris-Benedict predictions of energy expenditure were unreliable in the patients with acute liver failure. No correlations were found among energy expenditure and hemodynamic variables, the requirement for vasoconstrictors, or the presence of renal failure.


Despite the loss of functioning liver cell mass, the metabolic rate is substantially increased in patients with acetaminophen-induced fulminant hepatic failure. This finding is consistent with the marked systemic inflammatory response, which accompanies acute hepatic failure. The Harris-Benedict equation is unreliable when an estimation of energy expenditure is required in patients with this condition.

Copyright © by 2000 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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