Biol Trace Elem Res. 2021 Jan 20. doi: 10.1007/s12011-021-02575-8. Online ahead of print.
Several small studies have identified possible associations between low serum zinc levels and worse outcomes in patients acutely hospitalized for a variety of diseases. This study systematically evaluated all published literature to determine whether serum zinc might independently predict important outcomes in hospitalized patients. PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Libraries databases were searched from 1970 to 2019 to identify all citations having the keyword "zinc" with hospital outcomes. Studies were included if they measured the association between serum zinc levels in non-electively hospitalized patients with survival, length of stay, or unplanned readmission. Data were double-abstracted to evaluate the association between zinc levels and these outcomes. Our search returned 1091 citations of which 12 studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies were small (median 112.5 patients) using unspecified sampling methods. Seven studies were restricted to critically ill patients. Mean zinc levels ranged from 27.5 to 85.3 μg/dL. Baseline mean zinc levels were significantly lower (p < 0.05) in patients who eventually died in 1 of 7 studies. Five of seven studies found significantly increased risk of death in hospital with lower zinc levels. Associations between zinc levels and critical care or hospital length of stay were unclear. In 1 study, lower zinc levels were associated with a significantly increased risk of unplanned readmission. Current studies measuring the association between serum zinc levels and outcomes in acutely hospitalized patients are limited by their sample sizes, select patient populations, and limited statistical analyses. The association of zinc levels with hospital patient outcomes is unclear.