Patients are at risk because doctors don’t know how much IV fluid they need, NICE says

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 10 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7396
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

Doctors need better education on the safe administration of intravenous fluids and electrolytes, because failure to administer them properly causes complications in a fifth of patients who receive them, says new UK national guidance.

Every year tens of thousands of patients are believed to develop complications, some of which are fatal, because they receive the wrong type of IV fluid, too little fluid, or too much fluid, usually because the fluid is given for longer than is necessary. So today the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published a guideline, Intravenous Fluid Therapy in Adults in Hospital,1 that describes how to assess whether a patient needs IV therapy, what fluids should be given, and for how long.

Mike Stroud, chairman of the guideline development group, told a press briefing on Monday 9 December that the guideline may be the most important one that NICE has ever produced, because, after oxygen, IV fluids are given more frequently than any other acute therapy.

Stroud, a consultant in …

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