Pharmacology of colloids and crystalloids

Crit Care Clin. 1992 Apr;8(2):235-53.


We have attempted to review body fluid distribution by compartments so that the reader understands the physiology of ICF and ECF, and the relationship between interstitial and intravascular fluids. Crystalloids such as NS and RL are distributed to the ECF, whereas colloids primarily remain intravascular for longer periods. Although effective, crystalloids tend to require larger volumes for infusion, and edema remains a problem. Colloids as a group are extremely effective volume expanders, but none is ideal. Albumin, hetastarch, dextran, and the less commonly used colloids each have significant toxicities that must be considered when using them. Intelligent choices can be made to optimize use of these fluids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Fluid Compartments
  • Colloids / adverse effects
  • Colloids / pharmacokinetics
  • Colloids / pharmacology*
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Plasma Substitutes / adverse effects
  • Plasma Substitutes / pharmacokinetics
  • Plasma Substitutes / pharmacology*
  • Resuscitation / methods*


  • Colloids
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Plasma Substitutes