To assess evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the safety of isotonic versus hypotonic intravenous (IV) maintenance fluids in hospitalized children.


We searched PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and clinicaltrials.gov (up to April 11, 2013) for RCTs that compared isotonic to hypotonic maintenance IV fluid therapy in hospitalized children. Relative risk (RR), weighted mean differences, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated based on the effects on plasma sodium (pNa). The risk of developing hyponatremia (pNa <136 mmol/L), severe hyponatremia (pNa <130 mmol/L), and hypernatremia (pNa >145 mmol/L) was evaluated. We adopted a random-effects model in all meta-analyses. Sensitivity analyses by missing data were also performed.


Ten RCTs were included in this review. The meta-analysis showed significantly higher risk of hypotonic IV fluids for developing hyponatremia (RR 2.24, 95% CI 1.52 to 3.31) and severe hyponatremia (RR 5.29, 95% CI 1.74 to 16.06). There was a significantly greater fall in pNa in children who received hypotonic IV fluids (–3.49 mmol/L versus isotonic IV fluids, 95% CI –5.63 to –1.35). No significant difference was found between the 2 interventions in the risk of hypernatremia (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.22 to 2.48). None of the findings was sensitive to imputation of missing data.


Isotonic fluids are safer than hypotonic fluids in hospitalized children requiring maintenance IV fluid therapy in terms of pNa.

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