This systematic review and meta-analysis summarizes the clinical effects of increasing perioperative blood flow using fluids with or without inotropes/vasoactive drugs to explicit defined goals in adults. We included randomized controlled trials of adult patients (aged 16 years or older) undergoing surgery. We included 31 studies of 5292 participants. There was no difference in mortality at the longest follow-up: 282/2615 (10.8%) died in the control group and 238/2677 (8.9%) in the treatment group, RR of 0.89 (95% CI: 0.76-1.05; P=0.18). However, the results were sensitive to analytical methods and withdrawal of studies with methodological limitations. The intervention reduced the rate of three morbidities (renal failure, respiratory failure, and wound infections) but not the rates of arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, congestive cardiac failure, venous thrombosis, and other types of infections. The number of patients with complications was also reduced by the intervention. Hospital length of stay was reduced in the treatment group by 1.16 days. There was no difference in critical care length of stay. The primary analysis of this review showed no difference between groups but this result was sensitive to the method of analysis, withdrawal of studies with methodological limitations, and was dominated by a single large study. Patients receiving this intervention stayed in hospital 1 day less with fewer complications. It is unlikely that the intervention causes harm. The balance of current evidence does not support widespread implementation of this approach to reduce mortality but does suggest that complications and duration of hospital stay are reduced.
Keywords: fluid therapy; perioperative care; surgery.