A rational approach to fluid therapy in sepsis

Br J Anaesth. 2016 Mar;116(3):339-49. doi: 10.1093/bja/aev349. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


Aggressive fluid resuscitation to achieve a central venous pressure (CVP) greater than 8 mm Hg has been promoted as the standard of care, in the management of patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. However recent clinical trials have demonstrated that this approach does not improve the outcome of patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Pathophysiologically, sepsis is characterized by vasoplegia with loss of arterial tone, venodilation with sequestration of blood in the unstressed blood compartment and changes in ventricular function with reduced compliance and reduced preload responsiveness. These data suggest that sepsis is primarily not a volume-depleted state and recent evidence demonstrates that most septic patients are poorly responsive to fluids. Furthermore, almost all of the administered fluid is sequestered in the tissues, resulting in severe oedema in vital organs and, thereby, increasing the risk of organ dysfunction. These data suggest that a physiologic, haemodynamically guided conservative approach to fluid therapy in patients with sepsis would be prudent and would likely reduce the morbidity and improve the outcome of this disease.

Keywords: central venous pressure; fluid therapy; pulmonary edema; sepsis; septic shock.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / therapy*