Resuscitation of Trauma Patients: 0.9% NaCl (saline) or Plasma-lyte?

I am not a trauma surgeon. I am not a trauma physician. I do not take care of trauma patients in my current practice. I did several rotations in the trauma intensive care unit during my fellowship training but by know means am I going to pretend to have the knowledge that my colleagues who do that every day have. The study I am going to be discussing today is a pilot study looking at plasmalyte in trauma.

The authors were concerned about the metabolic acidosis that occurs from the elevated chloride concentrations in 0.9% NaCl which is 154mmol/L. Remember, reference values in the lab for chloride levels are between 98 and 109mmol/L. Also, there is data suggesting that an increase in chloride levels by just 5mmol/L could have deleterious effects on our patients. This hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis is not something new, we’ve known about its effects on the kidneys for decades now. I guess we’ve just been ignoring it.

I am a fan of whole blood to resuscitate trauma patients, but I my knowledge on the matter is weak. At the time being, patients receive a significant amount of crystalloids for resuscitation. The authors chose to use NS and plasmalyte in trauma due to the fact that lactated ringers is contraindicated with blood products as it allows the blood to coagulate as it goes in due to the calciums effect on citrate.

Surgeons are trained, from my experience, to focus on base excess. When a patient you’re taking care of them is sick, and you’re giving them a call to give them the heads up of what’s going on, one of the first questions you need to be prepared to answer is “what is the base deficit”? Plasma-lyte is a balanced salt solution that I have reviewed numerous times on instagram, my website, and youtube. Plenty of resources out there from me explaining this fluid. This focus on base excess is why they made this

They ended up with 46 patients enrolled in the study.

Plasma-lyte corrected the base deficit faster than 0.9% NaCl. Primary outcome achieved. Patients reached and remained in their normal acid-base physiology longer.

They also found that 0.9% NaCl leads to hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis, decreased serum bicarb levels, and worse base deficit.

Patients also had increased urine output with plasma-lyte compared to saline solution. There is some concern about whether gluconate causes some sort of increased urine production but this is not specified in this paper.

Some institutions worry about the added cost of plasma-lyte, which is approximately $1 on top of the cost of NS or LR depending on the institution and their contract. This study showed that providing plasma-lyte kept serum magnesium levels closer to normal (p=0.007). If you are a bean counter, you could potentially save some money by using plasma-lyte due to less cost of magnesium replacement. I may be stretching a bit but at least I am admitting that I’m stretching. The patients needed about 4gm of Mg in the NS group and no replacement in the PL group. I take back the part of me stretching. The authors state that the difference at their institution of cost between NS and PL is $0.76. 2gm of magnesium is $5.19. That means that PL may end up saving money and additional testing.

All in all, this is a pilot study. I have not personally seen the actual study. If you all have, feel free to correct me. This is not a full free article, unfortunately.

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Young, Jason B. MD, PharmD; Utter, Garth H. MSc, MD; Schermer, Carol R. MD, MPH; Galante, Joseph M. MD; Phan, Ho H. MD; Yang, Yifan MD; Anderson, Brock A. MD; Scherer, Lynette A. MD Saline Versus PlasmaLyte A in Initial Resuscitation of Trauma Patients: A Randomized Trial, Annals of Surgery: February 2014 – Volume 259 – Issue 2 – p 255-262 doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e318295feba
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