There have been several meta-analyses evaluating the effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in critically ill patients, but of these, none focused on patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). The objective of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effect of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 FAs) on this narrow subset.

All relevant articles were searched on MEDLINE, EMBASE, SpringerLink, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from 1990 to 2014. Meta-analyses were used to evaluate risk ratios and mean differences with 95% confidence intervals between the n-3 PUFA group and the control group. Subgroup analyses were conducted in terms of the route of fish oil.

Nine randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 783 adult patients were included in this study. Compared with control groups, n-3 FA provision can significantly reduce the incidence of mortality (RR: 0.77 [0.60, 0.97]; P = 0.03; I2 = 0%). Secondary outcomes showed no significant differences between groups except for shorter length of hospital stay (weighted mean difference: -10.56 [-19.76, -1.36], p < 0.00001, I2 = 99%).

Overall, this meta-analysis from RCTs indicates that provision of n-3 PUFAs has a therapeutic effect on survival rate in patients with SIRS.