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Emerg Med J. 2003 Jul;20(4):306-15.

Salt of the earth or a drop in the ocean? A pathophysiological approach to fluid resuscitation.

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  • 1Department, Selly Oak Hospital University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Raddlebarn Road, Birmingham B29 6LD, UK.


The evolved endocrine response after injury leads to sodium, chloride, and water retention at a time when large volumes of sodium containing fluids are given to maintain the circulation and preserve tissue oxygenation. Sodium, chloride, and water are also retained because of increased systemic vascular permeability to plasma proteins, especially albumin, which sequesters fluid in the interstitial space and causes oedema. Excessive fluid and electrolyte retention and interstitial oedema are associated with the systemic inflammatory response syndrome and multiple organ dysfunction, and failure. This review attempts an overview of these processes and addresses the question, "Can manipulation of fluid resuscitation influence the inflammatory response to injury and organ function". Results of randomised controlled prospective clinical studies suggest that limiting the sodium and chloride input and optimal use of synthetic colloids, which are well retained in the vascular space, can reduce the inflammatory response to injury and improve organ function.

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