Major Complications, Mortality, and Resource Utilization After
Open Abdominal Surgery
0.9% Saline Compared to Plasma-Lyte
Andrew D. Shaw, MB, FRCA, FCCM,∗ Sean M. Bagshaw, MD,† Stuart L. Goldstein, MD,‡ Lynette A. Scherer, MD,§
Michael Duan, MS, Carol R. Schermer, MD,¶ and John A. Kellum, MD#
Ann Surg 2012;255:821–829
Click this link to view the article: Saline versus plasmalyte
The purpose of this study was to evaluate adult patients undergoing major open abdominal surgery who received either 0.9% saline (30,994 patients) or a balanced crystalloid solution (926 patients).
The major findings of this study are:
- The in-hospital mortality was 5.6% in the saline group and 2.9% in the balanced group (P < 0.001).
- One or more major complications occurred in 33.7% of the saline group and 23% of the balanced group (P < 0.001).
- Treatment with balanced fluid was associated with fewer complications (odds ratio 0.79; 95% confidence interval 0.66–0.97).
- Postoperative infection (P = 0.006), renal failure requiring dialysis (P < 0.001), blood transfusion (P < 0.001), electrolyte disturbance (P = 0.046), acidosis investigation (P < 0.001), and intervention (P = 0.02) were all more frequent in patients receiving 0.9% saline.
The body defends its so-called milieu. Electrolytes are kept within a narrow range, as is the pH at 7.4. Temperature is also maintained at 37 degrees Celsius. Through evolution, this is the environment in which enzymes and metabolic processes work most efficiently. In fact, acidosis and hypothermia are two components of the triad of death (the third is coagulopathy).
During a trauma, we spend much of our time correcting hypothermia, hypovolemia, and coagulopathy, while the acidosis gets scant attention. This is probably because we believe that the acidosis is owing to hypoperfusion and once circulation is restored the body will correct the acidosis. Yet, isn’t it feasible that while we are fixing the hypovelemia, the acidosis will contribute to the coagulopathy by inhibiting the many enzymes of the clotting cascade?
More importantly the acidosis is iatrogenic in the majority of trauma. It is due to the administration of excessive amounts of normal saline (NS). Actually “normal saline” is anything but normal and one speaker at a recent anesthesiology meeting referred to it as “AB-normal saline.” NS contains an excess of sodium and chloride. As little as two liters of NS is enough to cause hyperchloremic acidosis. Many physicians view hyperchlormic acidosis as inconsequential. However in a trauma where the pH is 7.0, it is anything but inconsequential and more often than not it is the greatest cause of acidosis.
In my practice, I find that the base excess in a traumatized healthy individual is nearly always [-1 X (chloride excess + lactic acid)]. In many cases it is the chloride excess, not the lactic acid, that is the greatest contributor to the low pH (see blog on blood gas interpretation under categories, left side of screen). This acidosis owing to excess chloride is easily arrested by simply taking down all of the NS that is hanging and hanging Plama-Lyte in its place.
While the acidosis can be arrested in this way, the already present low pH will also need to be addressed and that is done by giving sodium bicarbonate or THAM.
A more appropriate solution to this problem would be to prevent developing the hyperchloremic acidosis at the outset by avoiding NS in the field, the emergency room, and operating room. Instead give Plasma-Lyte. Unlike Lactated Ringer’s solution, Plasma-Lyte contains no calcium and it is compatible with blood products.
Unfortunately, changing the trauma culture from NS to Plasma-Lyte will not be easy. But that is my “Personal Campaign Against Iatrogenic Acidosis.”