Lead author Dr. Kara Calkins, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics in the division of neonatology and developmental biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said children who suffer from intestinal failure, most often caused by a shortened or dysfunctional bowel, are unable to consume food orally. Instead, a nutritional cocktail of sugar, protein and fat made from soybean oil is injected through a small tube in the vein, Calkins said.
Previous studies showed replacing soybean oil with fish oil in intravenous nutrition could reverse intestinal failure-associated liver disease. However, the necessary duration of fish oil treatment has not been established in medical studies.
Calkins and colleagues said for this study, intravenous soybean oil was replaced with intravenous fish oil in 10 patients ages of 2 weeks to 18 years who had advanced intestinal failure-associated liver disease and who were at high risk for death and/or transplant. The researchers compared these subjects with 20 historical controls who had received soybean oil.
The study, published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, showed children receiving fish oil had a much higher rate of reversal of liver disease than those who received the standard soybean oil. In fact, after 17 weeks of fish oil, nearly 80 percent of patients experienced a reversal of their liver disease while only 5 percent of the soybean patients experienced a reversal, the study said.