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Surgery, Inflammation and Vitamin C


Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin with an array of biological functions. A number of proposed factors contribute to the vitamin’s plasma bioavailability and ability to exert optimal functionality. The aim of this review was to systematically assess plasma vitamin C levels post-surgery compared with pre-surgery/the magnitude and time frame of potential changes in concentration. We searched the PUBMED, SCOPUS, SciSearch and the Cochrane Library databases between 1970 and April 2020 for relevant research papers. Prospective studies, control groups and true placebo groups derived from controlled trials that reported means and standard deviations of plasma vitamin C concentrations pre- and postoperatively were included into the meta-analysis. Data were grouped into short-term (≤7 d) and long-term (>7 d) postoperative follow-up. Twenty-three of thirty-one studies involving 642 patients included in the systematic review were suitable for meta-analysis. Pooled data from the meta-analysis revealed a mean depletion of plasma vitamin C concentration of -17·99 µmol/l (39 % depletion) (CI -22·81, -13·17) (trial arms = 25, n 565, P < 0·001) during the first postoperative week and -18·80 µmol/l (21 % depletion) (CI -25·04, -12·56) (trial arms = 6, n 166, P < 0·001) 2-3 months postoperatively. Subgroup analyses revealed that these depletions occurred following different types of surgery; however, high heterogeneity was observed amongst trials assessing concentration change during the first postoperative week. Overall, our results warrant larger, long-term investigations of changes in postoperative plasma vitamin C concentrations and their potential effects on clinical symptomology.