Saline, used in medicine for more than a century, contains high concentrations of sodium chloride, which is similar to table salt; Vanderbilt researchers found that patients do better if, instead of saline, they are given balanced fluids that closely resemble the liquid part of blood.
“Our results suggest that using primarily balanced fluids should prevent death or severe kidney dysfunction for hundreds of Vanderbilt patients and tens of thousands of patients across the country each year,” said lead author Matthew Semler, MD, MSc, assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
“Because balanced fluids and saline are similar in cost, the finding of better patient outcomes with balanced fluids in two large trials has prompted a change in practice at Vanderbilt toward using primarily balanced fluids for intravenous fluid therapy.”
The Vanderbilt research, published in New England Journal of Medicine, examined over 15,000 intensive care patients and over 13,000 emergency department patients who were assigned to receive saline or balanced fluids if they required intravenous fluid.
In both studies, the incidence of serious kidney problems or death was about 1 percent lower in the balanced fluids group compared to the saline group.