The albumin controversy

Clin Perinatol. 2004 Sep;31(3):475-88. doi: 10.1016/j.clp.2004.03.018.


There are relatively few studies of albumin use in neonates and children, with most showing no consistent benefit compared with the use of crystalloid solutions. Certainly, albumin treatment is not indicated for treatment of hypoalbuminemia alone. Studies also show that albumin is not indicated in neonates for the initial treatment of hypotension, respiratory distress, or partial exchange transfusions. In adults, albumin is not considered to be the initial therapy for hypovolemia, burn injury, or nutritional supplementation. Based on the evidence, albumin should be used rarely in the neonatal ICU. Albumin may be indicated in the treatment of hypovolemia only after crystalloid infusion has failed. In patients with acute hemorrhagic shock, albumin may be used with crystalloids when blood products are not available immediately. Inpatients with acute or continuing losses of albumin and normal capillary permeability and lymphatic function, such as during persistent thoracostomy tube or surgical site drainage, albumin supplementation will prevent the development of hypoalbuminemia, and possibly edema formation. This has not been studied systematically, however. In patients with hypoalbuminemia and increased capillary permeability, albumin supplementation often leads to greater albumin leakage across the capillary membrane, contributing to edema formation without improvement in outcome. As the disease process improves and capillary permeability normalizes, albumin supplementation may accelerate recovery, but long-term benefits of albumin treatment usually cannot be demonstrated. These patients will recover whether or not albumin is administered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / physiology*
  • Albumins / therapeutic use*
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Hypoalbuminemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypoalbuminemia / physiopathology
  • Hypotension / drug therapy
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Respiration Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / drug therapy


  • Albumins