There May Be a Better IV Fluid Than Saline, Studies Find

Patients who receive balanced fluid intravenous (IV) solution instead of more widely used saline solution are much less likely to die or to suffer kidney damage, according to two large studies.

Saline -- salt dissolved in water -- is the most common type of IV in the U.S. despite growing evidence that it can harm the kidneys. Balanced fluids contain other ingredients in addition to saline, the Associated Press reported.

The two studies included 28,000 patients who received IVs of either saline or balanced fluid. For every 100 patients on balanced fluids, there was one fewer severe kidney problem or death.

The researchers said that could translate into 50,000 to 70,000 fewer deaths and 100,000 fewer cases of kidney failure each year in the U.S., the AP reported.

The studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed Tuesday at a critical care conference in San Antonio.

"We've been sounding the alarm for 20 years" about the potential risks of saline IVs, Dr. John Kellum, a critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, told the AP. He was not involved in the studies.

"It's purely inertia" that prevents hospitals from using balanced fluid instead of saline IVs, according to Kellum.

Doctors say it shouldn't be difficult or expensive for hospitals to switch because both types of fluids cost about a dollar or two per IV and many suppliers make both types, the AP reported.

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