n-3 Fatty acids are recognised as influencing both wound healing and immunity. We assessed the impact of a fish oil- and micronutrient-enriched formula (study formula) on the healing of pressure ulcers and on immune function in critically ill patients in an intensive care unit. A total of forty patients with pressure ulcers and receiving nutritional support were enrolled (intervention group, n 20, received study formula; and a control group, n 20, received an isoenergetic formula). Total and differential leucocyte count and percentage of adhesion molecule positive granulocyte and lymphocyte cells (CD11a, CD11b, CD18 and CD49b) were measured on days 0, 7 and 14. Percentage of positive lymphocytes for CD54, CD49b, CD49d and CD8 were also measured on days 0, 7 and 14. The state of pressure ulcers was assessed by using the pressure ulcer scale for healing tool score on days 7, 14 and 28 of treatment. No between-group differences in patient demographics, anthropometry or diagnostic class were observed. Patients who received the study formula showed significant increases in the percentage of positive CD18 and CD11a lymphocytes and of CD49b granulocytes as compared to controls (P < 0·05). While the severity of pressure ulcers was not significantly different between the two groups on admission, severity increased significantly over time for the control group (P < 0·05), but not for the study group. The present study suggests that a fish oil- and micronutrient-enriched formula may prevent worsening of pressure ulcers and that this effect may be mediated by an effect on adhesion molecule expression.