Choice of Fluid Therapy in the Initial Management of Sepsis, Severe Sepsis, and Septic Shock

Shock. 2016 Jul;46(1):17-26. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000000577.


Sepsis results in disruption of the endothelial glycocalyx layer and damage to the microvasculature, resulting in interstitial accumulation of fluid and subsequently edema. Fluid resuscitation is a mainstay in the initial treatment of sepsis, but the choice of fluid is unclear. The ideal resuscitative fluid is one that restores intravascular volume while minimizing edema; unfortunately, edema and edema-related complications are common consequences of current resuscitation strategies. Crystalloids are recommended as first-line therapy, but the type of crystalloid is not specified. There is increasing evidence that normal saline is associated with increased mortality and kidney injury; balanced crystalloids may be a safer alternative. Albumin is similar to crystalloids in terms of outcomes in the septic population but is costlier. Hydroxyethyl starches appear to increase mortality and kidney injury in the critically ill and are no longer indicated in these patients. In the trauma population, the shift to plasma-based resuscitation with decreased use of crystalloid and colloid in the treatment of hemorrhagic shock has led to decreased inflammatory and edema-mediated complications. Studies are needed to determine if these benefits also occur with a similar resuscitation strategy in the setting of sepsis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Fluid Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyethyl Starch Derivatives / therapeutic use
  • Isotonic Solutions / adverse effects
  • Isotonic Solutions / therapeutic use
  • Resuscitation / adverse effects
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Sepsis / therapy*
  • Shock, Septic / therapy*
  • Sodium Chloride / adverse effects
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Hydroxyethyl Starch Derivatives
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Sodium Chloride