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Two U.S. studies found that the saline solution used in intravenous fluid (IV) bags may not be safe for hospitalized patients. Researchers suggest that alternative balanced intravenous fluid, comprised of saline, potassium, and other ingredients that more closely resemble plasma be used to reduce the risk of kidney damage or death from saline solution IVs. The studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 28,000 patients at Vanderbilt University, who were given either saline or balanced fluid IVs. For every 100 people on the balanced IV, there was one fewer fatal or severe kidney problem.
Researchers estimate that the use of this balanced fluid, in lieu of traditional saline solution, could result in 50,000 to 70,000 fewer deaths and 100,000 fewer cases of kidney failure per year in the U.S. According to one of the study’s leaders, approximately 30 million people are hospitalized in the U.S each year. By using the balanced fluid, tens of thousands of them could be spared from death or severe kidney problems caused by saline IVs.
Saline consists of salt dissolved in water, a solution that has been shown to harm kidneys, especially when administered in large doses. Saline IV bags are commonly administered to hospital patients in the U.S. to prevent dehydration, maintain blood pressure, or provide certain medicine or nutrients to patients who cannot eat. However, in other countries such as Europe and Australia, balanced fluids are more widely used.
After learning of the studies’ results, Vanderbilt University and the University of Pittsburgh switched to primarily balanced fluids. A critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh says that they have been advocating for the switch for 20 years and that the lack of widespread change is simply attributable to inertia.
Baxter International is one of the largest producers of U.S. IV solutions, making tens of millions of IV solutions each year and comprising more than 43 percent of the U.S. IV solution market. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last fall, three of Baxter’s plants lost electricity, causing a shortage of supply. The manager of supplies at NYU Langone Health reported being fearful of not having enough IVs to administer to patients. According to her, administering IV fluids is a standard procedure that is followed before any other treatment begins.
After three months, the power grid was restored, and normal production of saline IVs resumed. Some doctors hope that the studies will encourage more hospitals to make the switch to balanced fluids. They say that the cost of saline IVs and balanced IVs are about the same, so cost should not be a hinderance.
If you or a loved one was harmed by a medical professional’s mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. Physicians, nurses, orderlies, station assistants, and other medical professionals should adhere to a professional standard of care. Hospitals must ensure that their staff is adequately trained and follow the appropriate policies and procedures. If their negligent actions caused you to suffer an injury or illness such as kidney problems from a saline IV, contact the experienced South Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. From our offices in Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, we represent clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Call us at 856-354-9444 or contact us online for a free consultation.