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Sepsis/Shock Section

Fluid Resuscitation – Back to BaSICS

The age-old debate regarding the appropriate timing, volume, and type of fluid resuscitation for patients in septic shock rages on – or does it? In October 2021, the Surviving Sepsis Campaign published updated guidelines for the management of sepsis. One of the biggest changes from prior versions was downgrading the recommendation for an initial 30mL/kg bolus of IV crystalloid for the initial resuscitation of a patient in septic shock to a suggestion, based on dynamic measures to assess individual patients’ fluid balance (Evans, et al. Crit Care Med. 2021;49[11]:e1063-e1143).

Dr. Ankita Agarwal Courtesy CHEST

Dr. Ankita Agarwal

Traditionally, 0.9% saline had been the resuscitative fluid of choice in sepsis. But it has a propensity to cause physiologic derangements such as hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis, renal afferent vasoconstriction, and reduced glomerular filtration rate – not to mention, can be a signal for possibly increased mortality, as seen in the SMART trial (Semler, et al. N Engl J Med. 2018;378[9]:829-839). Normal saline had subsequently fallen from grace in favor of balanced crystalloids such as Lactated Ringer’s and Plasma-Lyte. However, the recent PLUS and BaSICS trials showed no significant difference in 90-day mortality or secondary outcomes of acute kidney injury, need for renal replacement therapy, or ICU mortality (Finfer, et al. N Engl J Med. 2022;386[9]:815-826; Zampieri, et al. JAMA. 2021;326[9]:818-829). While these are large randomized controlled trials, a major weakness is the administration of uncontrolled resuscitative fluids prior to randomization and even postenrollment, which may have biased results.

Ultimately, does the choice between salt water or balanced crystalloids matter? Despite the limitations in the newest trials, probably less than the timely administration of antibiotics and pressors, unless your patient also has a traumatic TBI – then go with the saline. But, in the everlasting quest for medical excellence, choosing the balanced fluid that causes the least physiologic derangement seems to make the most sense.

LCDR Meredith Olsen, MD, USN
Fellow-in-Training

Ankita Agarwal, MD
Fellow-in-Training

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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