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J Fam Pract. 1991 Apr;32(4):387-90.

Colloids versus crystalloids in fluid resuscitation: an analysis of randomized controlled trials.

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Department of Family Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City 73190.



Controversy about fluid therapy in resuscitation has existed since the 1960s. The difficulty could be that fluid behavior at the lung capillary membrane level may vary depending on the patient's particular pathology.


Mortality rates taken from randomized controlled trials were analyzed to compare colloidal and crystalloidal fluid for resuscitation efforts. We controlled for the underlying pathological process by categorizing subjects into three groups: (1) surgical stress, (2) hypovolemia, and (3) severe pulmonary failure. A cost-effectiveness analysis also was performed.


No statistically significant differences in mortality rates were found. The cost of each life saved using crystalloids is $45.13, and the cost of each life saved using colloidal solutions is $1493.60.


Because there is no significant mortality-rate advantage to using colloids, and because the cost-effectiveness ratio for crystalloids is much lower than for colloids, it is concluded that crystalloids should always be used in resuscitation efforts.

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