Maintenance and Replacement Therapy

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Chapter 53 Maintenance and Replacement Therapy

Maintenance intravenous fluids are used in a child who cannot be fed enterally. Along with maintenance fluids, children may require concurrent replacement fluids if they have continued excessive losses, such as may occur with drainage from a nasogastric (NG) tube or with high urine output due to nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. If dehydration is present, the patient also needs to receive deficit replacement (Chapter 54). A child awaiting surgery may need only maintenance fluids, whereas a child with diarrheal dehydration needs maintenance and deficit therapy and also may require replacement fluids if significant diarrhea continues.

Maintenance Therapy

Children normally have large variations in their daily intake of water and electrolytes. The only exceptions are patients who receive fixed dietary regimens orally, via a gastric tube, or as intravenous total parenteral nutrition. Healthy children can tolerate significant variations in intake because of the many homeostatic mechanisms that can adjust absorption and excretion of water and electrolytes (Chapter 52). The calculated water and electrolyte needs that form the basis of maintenance therapy are not absolute requirements. Rather, these calculations provide reasonable guidelines for a starting point to estimate intravenous therapy. Children do not need to be started on intravenous fluids simply because their intake is being monitored in a hospital and they are not taking “maintenance fluids” orally, unless there is a pathologic process present that necessitates high fluid intake.

Maintenance fluids are most commonly necessary in preoperative and postoperative surgical patients; many nonsurgical patients also require maintenance fluids. It is important to recognize when it is necessary to begin maintenance fluids. A normal teenager who is given nothing by mouth (NPO) overnight for a morning procedure does not require maintenance fluids because a healthy adolescent can easily tolerate 12 or 18 hr without oral intake. In contrast, a 6 mo old child waiting for surgery should begin receiving intravenous fluids within 8 hr of the last feeding. Infants become dehydrated more quickly than older patients. A child with obligatory high urine output from nephrogenic diabetes insipidus should begin receiving intravenous fluids soon after being classified as NPO.

Maintenance fluids are composed of a solution of water, glucose, sodium, and potassium. This solution has the advantages of simplicity, long shelf life, low cost, and compatibility with peripheral intravenous administration. Such a solution accomplishes the major objectives of maintenance fluids (Table 53-1). Patients lose water, sodium, and potassium in their urine and stool; water is also lost from the skin and lungs. Maintenance fluids replace these losses and therefore avoid the development of dehydration and deficiency of sodium or potassium.

The glucose in maintenance fluids provides approximately 20% of the normal caloric needs of the patient, prevents the development of starvation ketoacidosis, and diminishes the protein degradation that would occur if the patient received no calories. Glucose also provides added osmoles, thus avoiding the administration of hypotonic fluids that may cause hemolysis.

Maintenance fluids do not provide adequate calories, protein, fat, minerals, or vitamins. This fact is typically not problematic for a patient receiving intravenous fluids for a few days. A patient receiving maintenance intravenous fluids is receiving inadequate calories and will lose 0.5-1% of weight each day. It is imperative that patients not remain on maintenance therapy indefinitely; total parental nutrition should be used for children who cannot be fed enterally for more than a few days, especially patients with underlying malnutrition.

Prototypical maintenance fluid therapy does not provide electrolytes such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and bicarbonate. For most patients, this lack is not problematic for a few days, although there are patients who will not tolerate this omission, usually because of excessive losses. A child with renal tubular acidosis wastes bicarbonate in urine. Such a patient will rapidly become acidemic unless bicarbonate (or acetate) is added to the maintenance fluids. It is important to remember the limitations of maintenance fluid therapy.

Maintenance Water

Water is a crucial component of maintenance fluid therapy because of the obligatory daily water losses. These losses are both measurable (urine, stool) and not measurable (insensible losses from the skin and lungs). Failure to replace these losses leads to a child who is thirsty, uncomfortable, and, ultimately, dehydrated.

The goal of maintenance water is to provide enough water to replace these losses. Although urinary losses are approximately 60% of the total, the normal kidney has the ability to markedly modify water losses, with daily urine volume potentially varying by more than a factor of 20. Maintenance water is designed to provide enough water so that the kidney does not need to significantly dilute or concentrate the urine. It also provides a margin of safety, so that normal homeostatic mechanisms can adjust urinary water losses to prevent overhydration and dehydration. This adaptability obviates the need for absolute precision in determining water requirements. This fact is important, given the absence of absolute accuracy in the formulas for calculation of water needs. Table 53-2 provides a system for calculating maintenance water on the basis of the patient’s weight and emphasizes the high water needs of smaller, less mature patients. This approach is reliable, although calculations based on weight do overestimate the water needs of an overweight child, in whom it is better to base the calculations on the lean body weight, which can be estimated by using the 50th percentile of body weight for the child’s height. It is also important to remember that there is an upper limit of 2.4 L/24 hr in adult-sized patients. Intravenous fluids are written as an hourly rate. The formulas in Table 53-3 enable rapid calculation of the rate of maintenance fluids.


0-10 kg 100 mL/kg
11-20 kg 1,000 mL + 50 mL/kg for each kg >10 kg
>20 kg 1,500 mL + 20 mL/kg for each kg >20 kg*

* The maximum total fluid per day is normally 2,400 mL.

Intravenous Solutions

The components of the commonly available solutions are shown in Table 53-4. Normal saline (NS) and Ringer lactate (LR) are isotonic solutions; they have approximately the same tonicity as plasma. Isotonic fluids are generally used for the acute correction of intravascular volume depletion (Chapter 54). The usual choices for maintenance fluid therapy in children are half-normal saline (image) and 0.2NS. These solutions are available with 5% dextrose (D5). In addition, they are available with 20 mEq/L of potassium chloride, 10 mEq/L of potassium chloride, or no potassium. A hospital pharmacy can also prepare custom-made solutions with different concentrations of glucose, sodium, or potassium. In addition, other electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphate, acetate, and bicarbonate, can be added to intravenous solutions. Custom-made solutions take time to prepare and are much more expensive than commercial solutions. The use of custom-made solutions is necessary only for patients who have underlying disorders that cause significant electrolyte imbalances. The use of commercial solutions saves both time and expense.

A normal plasma osmolality is 285-295 mOsm/kg. Infusing an intravenous solution peripherally with a much lower osmolality can cause water to move into red blood cells, leading to hemolysis. Thus, intravenous fluids are generally designed to have an osmolality that is either close to 285 or greater (fluids with moderately higher osmolality do not cause problems). Thus, 0.2NS (osmolality = 68) should not be administered peripherally, but D5 0.2NS (osmolality = 346) or D5 image + 20 mEq/L KCl (osmolality = 472) can be administered.

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