Research Article

Randomised controlled trial comparing oral and intravenous rehydration therapy in children with diarrhoea.

BMJ 1991; 303 doi: (Published 17 August 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;303:393
  1. A Mackenzie,
  2. G Barnes
  1. Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine the effectiveness of oral rehydration in children with moderate dehydration caused by gastroenteritis, and to compare the complications of oral and intravenous treatment. DESIGN--Randomised controlled trial. SETTING--Emergency department and infectious diseases ward in a large urban teaching hospital. PATIENTS--111 children aged 3-36 months who had been previously healthy, had had diarrhoea for seven days or less, had clinical signs of dehydration, and were not in shock. Six children were withdrawn because the diagnosis was incorrect (four in oral group, two in intravenous group) and one (oral group) was withdrawn at her parents' request. INTERVENTIONS--Oral rehydration fluid was given by mouth or nasogastric tube, or both to 52 children. The remaining 52 received intravenous rehydration fluids but were allowed to drink. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Success or failure of rehydration. Number of times child vomited or passed stool after starting treatment. Time taken to rehydrate. RESULTS--Oral treatment failed in two children (failure rate 3.8%, upper 95% confidence limit 11.6%) and intravenous treatment in none. Vomiting was more common in the oral group (p less than 0.01): 26 of 50 children (52%) in the oral group and 11 of 50 (22%) in the intravenous group vomited during rehydration. There was no significant difference between the two treatment groups in the number of stools passed during rehydration (p = 0.09). None of the children had serious complications of treatment. CONCLUSION--Rehydration by mouth or nasogastric tube is a safe and effective treatment for moderately dehydrated children with gastroenteritis.