Introduction: Sepsis is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality, yet controversy surrounds the current treatment approach. We conducted a systematic review to assess the evidence base for fluid resuscitation in the treatment of children with shock due to sepsis or severe infection.
Methods: We searched 3 databases for randomized trials, quasi-randomized trials, and controlled before-after studies assessing children with septic shock in which at least one group was treated with bolus fluids. The primary outcome was mortality at 48 hours. Assessment of methodological quality followed the GRADE criteria. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated and data pooled using fixed-effects method.
Results: 13 studies met our inclusion criteria. No bolus has significantly better mortality outcomes at 48 hours for children with general septic shock (RR 0.69; 95%CI 0.54-0.89), and children with malaria (RR 0.64; 95%CI 0.45-0.91) when compared to giving any bolus. This result is largely driven by a single, high quality trial (the FEAST trial). There is no evidence investigating bolus vs no bolus in children with Dengue fever or severe malnutrition. Colloid and crystalloid boluses were found to have similar effects on mortality across all sub-groups (general septic shock, malaria, Dengue fever, and severe malnutrition).
Conclusions: The majority of all randomized evidence to date comes from the FEAST trial, which found that fluid boluses were harmful compared to no bolus. Simple algorithms are needed to support health-care providers in the triage of patients to determine who could potentially be harmed by the provision of bolus fluids, and who will benefit.