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Keywords:

  • child;
  • fluid therapy;
  • infusion;
  • intravenous

Aim:  Traditional paediatric intravenous maintenance fluids are prescribed using hypotonic fluids and the weight-based 4:2:1 formula for administration rate. However, this may cause hyponatraemia in sick and post-operative children. We studied the effect of two types of intravenous maintenance fluid and two administration rates on plasma sodium concentration in intensive care patients.

Methods:  A Factorial-design, double-blind, randomised controlled trial was used. We randomised 50 children with normal electrolytes without hypoglycaemia who needed intravenous maintenance fluids for >12 h to 0.9% saline (normal saline) or 4% dextrose and 0.18% saline (dextrose saline), at either the traditional maintenance fluid rate or 2/3 of that rate. The main outcome measure was change in plasma sodium from admission to 12–24 h later.

Results:  Fifty patients (37 surgical) were enrolled. Plasma sodium fell in all groups: mean fall 2.3 (standard deviation 4.0) mmol/L. Fluid type (P = 0.0063) but not rate (P = 0.12) was significantly associated with fall in plasma sodium. Dextrose saline produced a greater fall in plasma sodium than normal saline: difference 3.0, 95% confidence interval 0.8–5.1 mmol/L. Full maintenance rate produced a greater fall in plasma sodium than restricted rate, but the difference was small and non-significant: 1.6 (−0.7, 3.9) mmol/L. Fluid type, but not rate, remained significant after adjustment for surgical status. One patient, receiving normal saline at restricted rate, developed asymptomatic hypoglycaemia.

Conclusion:  Sick and post-operative children given dextrose saline at traditional maintenance rates are at risk of hyponatraemia.