Planning a critical care hospital stay? I thought not…but then again…


…most of us do not plan a serious hospitalization in advance.  But emergencies do happen, and if you already have a serious medical problem, your odds of an eventual and significant hospital stay are not trivial.  So, it might be a good idea to think ahead about how you could reduce the time you might have to spend there.  Through the last four decades I’ve worked with the team of professionals who supervise hospital care, and have seen their ongoing efforts to make your inpatient care as safe as possible.  I know they would agree with me that the longer you stay as their guest, the higher the risk that you may be on the receiving end of an infection, the side effect of a procedure or an encounter with some form of human error.

There have been several studies showing how Vitamin D levels correlate to the length of a hospital stay, and your risk of dying while in the hospital.  One of these, done recently at Emory University in Atlanta1 looked at how Vitamin D levels correlated with the length of hospitalization for patients ill enough to be on a ventilator during their ICU stay.  Unfortunately, 43% of this group already had a very low Vitamin D level on admission, less than 20 ng/dl. (30-100 ng/dl is considered acceptable, and 50-70 ng/dl is preferable).  During this study, these ventilator requiring patients were given either no extra Vitamin D, 50,000 IU/day for five days, or 100,000 IU/day for five days.  While, as expected, levels did not change for the untreated group, both groups getting additional Vitamin D therapy brought their levels up to the 45-50 ng/dl level, and the time in hospital for these treated groups was 30-50% shorter than the placebo (untreated) group.  That’s astounding!  A larger study is in the works to expand the research and investigate this further.

The researchers go on to explain that the benefits of Vitamin D are what we call ‘multi-factorial’.  Improved immune response, positive effects on respiration and muscle function, and better management of inflammation were all proposed as pro-Vitamin D benefits in these seriously ill patients.  Of course, these and many other proposed Vitamin D benefits are important for your health; whether it is excellent, or teetering on the edge of an ER visit.  The bottom line I would like to leave with you, and with anyone you know who has a major health problem would be that the Vitamin D level found to be beneficial in these seriously ill patients is also a very reasonable everyday level for all of us.  The 50 ng/dl level is right in the middle of the ‘normal’ range of 30-100, so it’s not excessive.  It is also readily attained with moderate amounts of daily Vitamin D supplementation.  Unfortunately, you can’t reliably guess your level.  The evidence strongly suggests that each of us should get our blood level checked for Vitamin D3 (also known as 25 (OH) D), and then as needed, supplement the numbers up to a good mid-range level.  Your doctor can do this for you, or you can get online advice and testing through Grassroots Health (, or The Vitamin D Council (, both of which are reputable online Vitamin D resources for detailed information, and direct to consumer testing.

You might consider working on this before your first day on a ventilator, especially if your ICU specialist was not a part of this Vitamin D study.  It may be that an ounce of ‘D’ is worth a pound of critical care. While the best hospitalization would be the one you never needed, the next best might be the one you could trim by half.


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