Isotonic crystalloid solutions: a structured review of the literature

Br J Anaesth. 2014 Jun;112(6):968-81. doi: 10.1093/bja/aeu047. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


Background: Several different crystalloid solutions are available for i.v. fluid administration but there is little information about their specific advantages and disadvantages.

Methods: We performed a systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CENTRAL up until May 17, 2012, selecting all prospective human studies that directly compared any near-isotonic crystalloids and reported any outcome.

Results: From the 5060 articles retrieved in the search, only 28 met the selection criteria. There was considerable heterogeneity among the studies. Several articles reported an increased incidence of hyperchloraemic acidosis with the use of normal saline, and others an increase in blood lactate levels when large amounts of Ringer's lactate solutions were infused. From the limited data available, normal saline administration appears to be associated with increased blood loss and greater red blood cell transfusion volumes in high-risk populations compared to Ringer's lactate. Possible effects of the different solutions on renal function, inflammatory response, temperature, hepatic function, glucose metabolism, and splanchnic perfusion are also reported. The haemodynamic profiles of all the solutions were similar.

Conclusions: Different solutions have different effects on acid-base status, electrolyte levels, coagulation, renal, and hepatic function. Whether these differences have clinical consequences remains unclear.

Keywords: crystalloid solutions; infusions, intravenous; isotonic solutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Body Temperature / drug effects
  • C-Reactive Protein / drug effects
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Dogs
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Isotonic Solutions / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ringer's Lactate
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use


  • Blood Glucose
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Ringer's Lactate
  • Sodium Chloride
  • C-Reactive Protein