Hypophosphatemia in critically ill adults and children – A systematic review

Annika Reintam Blaser*, Jan Gunst, Carole Ichai, Michael P. Casaer, Carina Benstoem, Guillaume Besch, Stéphane Dauger, Sonja M. Fruhwald, Michael Hiesmayr, Olivier Joannes-Boyau, Manu L. N. G. Malbrain, Maria-Helena Perez, Stefan J. Schaller, Angelique de Man, Joel Starkopf, Kadri Tamme, Jan Wernerman, Mette M. Berger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background & aims: Phosphate is the main intracellular anion essential for numerous biological processes. Symptoms of hypophosphatemia are non-specific, yet potentially life-threatening. This systematic review process was initiated to gain a global insight into hypophosphatemia, associated morbidity and treatments. Methods: A systematic review was conducted (PROSPERO CRD42020163191). Nine clinically relevant questions were generated, seven for adult and two for pediatric critically ill patients, and prevalence of hypophosphatemia was assessed in both groups. We identified trials through systematic searches of Medline, EMBASE, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, and Web of Science. Quality assessment was performed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool for randomized controlled trials and the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale for observational studies. Results: For all research questions, we identified 2727 titles in total, assessed 399 full texts, and retained 82 full texts for evidence synthesis, with 20 of them identified for several research questions. Only 3 randomized controlled trials were identified with two of them published only in abstract form, as well as 28 prospective and 31 retrospective studies, and 20 case reports. Relevant risk of bias regarding selection and comparability was identified for most of the studies. No meta-analysis could be performed. The prevalence of hypophosphatemia varied substantially in critically ill adults and children, but no study assessed consecutive admissions to intensive care. In both critically ill adults and children, several studies report that hypophosphatemia is associated with worse outcome (prolonged length of stay and the need for respiratory support, and higher mortality). However, there was insufficient evidence regarding the optimal threshold upon which hypophosphatemia becomes critical and requires treatment. We found no studies regarding the optimal frequency of phosphate measurements, and regarding the time window to correct hypophosphatemia. In adults, nutrient restriction on top of phosphate repletion in patients with refeeding syndrome may improve survival, although evidence is weak. Conclusions: Evidence on the definition, outcome and treatment of clinically relevant hypophosphatemia in critically ill adults and children is scarce and does not allow answering clinically relevant questions. High quality clinical research is crucial for the development of respective guidelines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Nutrition
Early online date2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020

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