Association between the use of balanced fluids and outcomes in critically ill children: a before and after study

Matthew F. Barhight*, Delphine Nelson, Thomas Moran, Jessica Christiano, Lazaro Nelson Sanchez-Pinto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hyperchloremia and chloride load have been associated with worse clinical outcomes in critically ill patients. We sought to evaluate the electrolyte profile and clinical outcomes associated with a unit-wide transition from saline to balanced fluids for resuscitation and maintenance fluids in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Methods: A before and after analysis of all patients admitted to the PICU in a large, urban, academic hospital between August 2018 and March 2020. The transition from the use of saline to the use of balanced fluids for both resuscitation and maintenance fluid as standard care occurred in June 2019. The primary outcome was day 3 acute kidney injury (AKI). The secondary outcomes included mortality, ventilator-free days (VFDs), need for renal replacement therapy (RRT), hospital length of stay (LOS), and electrolyte abnormalities. Results: Overall, 2863 patients (47% female) with a day 3 AKI rate of 12.9% (n = 130) and a mortality rate of 2.8% (n = 79) were included. After adjusting for confounders (age, PRISM III, mechanical ventilation, and immunocompromised state, septic shock), there were no significant differences in the odds of day 3 AKI (pre 13%, post 12.5%; adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.96, 95%CI 0.65–1.42). There were no differences in the secondary outcomes. The post-intervention period had fewer patients with hyperchloremia (pre 15.5% vs. post 10.4%, p = < 0.0001) and hyperkalemia (pre 3.2% vs. post 1.4%, p = 0.02) and more patients with hypochloremia (pre 9.5% vs. post 14.4%, p = < 0.0001) and hypokalemia (pre 38.2% vs. post 47.2%, p = < 0.0001). In reference to the normochloremic cohort, the hypochloremic cohort had an increase in day 3 AKI, need for RRT, hyperchloremia, and hyperkalemia, and a decrease in hypokalemia; and the hyperchloremic cohort had an increase in VFD and a decrease in hospital LOS. Conclusions: Following a unit-wide implementation of balanced fluids as standard care, there were no differences in rates of day 3 AKI or other clinical outcomes. However, there were lower rates of hyperkalemia and hyperchloremia and higher rates of hypokalemia and hypochloremia. Further evaluation of the effect of balanced fluids and the clinical significance of electrolyte abnormalities in critically ill children is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number266
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Acute kidney injury
  • Balanced fluids
  • Mortality
  • Pediatric critical care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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