Background: Fluid resuscitation is the cornerstone of sepsis treatment. However, whether balanced or unbalanced crystalloids or natural or synthetic colloids confer a survival advantage is unclear.
Purpose: To examine the effect of different resuscitative fluids on mortality in patients with sepsis.
Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, ACP Journal Club, CINAHL, HealthSTAR, the Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials through March 2014.
Study selection: Randomized trials that evaluated different resuscitative fluids in adult patients with sepsis or septic shock and death. No language restrictions were applied.
Data extraction: Two reviewers extracted data on study characteristics, methods, and outcomes. Risk of bias for individual studies and quality of evidence were assessed.
Data synthesis: 14 studies (18916 patients) were included with 15 direct comparisons. Network meta-analysis at the 4-node level showed higher mortality with starches than with crystalloids (high confidence) and lower mortality with albumin than with crystalloids (moderate confidence) or starches (moderate confidence). Network meta-analysis at the 6-node level showed lower mortality with albumin than with saline (moderate confidence) and low-molecular-weight starch (low confidence) and with balanced crystalloids than with saline (low confidence) and low- and high-molecular-weight starches (moderate confidence).
Limitations: These trials were heterogeneous in case mix, fluids evaluated, duration of fluid exposure, and risk of bias. Imprecise estimates for several comparisons in this network meta-analysis contribute to low confidence in most estimates of effect.
Conclusion: Among patients with sepsis, resuscitation with balanced crystalloids or albumin compared with other fluids seems to be associated with reduced mortality.
Primary funding source: The Hamilton Chapter of the Canadian Intensive Care Foundation and the Critical Care Medicine Residency Program and Critical Care Division Alternate Funding Plan at McMaster University.