Predicting refeeding syndrome: Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) as a diagnostic biochemical marker for clinical practice

Friday, 7 March, 2014
  • Goyale A,
  • Ashley SL,
  • David Taylor,
  • Elnenaei MO,
  • Alaghband-Zadeh J,
  • le Roux CW,
  • Vincent RP



Refeeding syndrome (RS) is a potentially fatal condition that can occur following the re-introduction of nutrition after a period of starvation. Hypophosphataemia following the reintroduction of nutrition is often the only reliable biochemical marker of RS. Refeeding index (RI) generated from baseline insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and leptin has been proposed as a useful biochemical marker for the identification of patients at risk of developing refeeding hypophosphataemia (RH).


A prospective study included 52 patients referred for parenteral nutrition (PN). The sensitivity and specificity of IGF-1 measured using a sensitive assay was compared to the RI in predicting the development of RH (a ≥ 30% drop in PO4 during the first 36-h of PN administration). Leptin and IGF-1 were analysed on baseline samples using a quantitative enzyme-linked immunoassay. Daily blood samples were collected from all patients for routine biochemistry for the full duration of PN administration.


High sensitivity IGF-1 measurement alone was comparable with the RI, using receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, with areas under the curve being 0.79 and 0.80, respectively, and superior to leptin alone (0.72) for predicting ≥ 30% drop in PO4. The cut-off value for IGF-1 that gave best sensitivity (91% [95% CI 75-98%]) and specificity (65% [95% CI 41-85%]) was 63.7 µg/L, with a likelihood ratio of 2.59.


Baseline IGF-1 is an objective, sensitive and specific biochemical marker in identifying patients who are at high risk of developing RH prior to PN administration and therefore may have a role in clinical practice.

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