Albumin and artificial colloids in fluid management: where does the clinical evidence of their utility stand?

Groeneveld AB.
Crit Care 2000;4 Suppl 2:S16–20

Academisch Ziekenhuis Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. johan.groeneveld@azvu.nl

Key questions remain unresolved regarding the advantages and limitations of colloids for fluid resuscitation despite extensive investigation. Elucidation of these questions has been slowed, in part, by uncertainty as to the optimal endpoints that should be monitored in assessing patient response to administered fluid. Colloids and crystalloids do not appear to differ notably in their effects on preload recruitable stroke volume or oxygen delivery. Limited evidence nevertheless suggests that colloids might promote greater oxygen consumption than crystalloids. It remains unclear, in any case, to what extent such physiological parameters might be related to clinically relevant outcomes such as morbidity and mortality. Recent randomized controlled trial results indicate that, at least in certain forms of fluid imbalance, albumin is effective in significantly reducing morbidity and mortality. Much further investigation is needed, however, to determine the effects of colloid administration on clinically relevant outcomes in a broad range of critically ill patients. The ability of administered colloids to increase colloid osmotic pressure (COP) constitutes one mechanism by which colloids might reduce interstitial oedema and promote favourable patient outcomes. However, the applicability of this mechanism may be limited, due to the operation of compensatory mechanisms such as increased lymphatic drainage. Attempts to increase COP might also be less useful in states of increased vascular permeability such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, although this issue has by no means been settled by empirical data. Colloids are clearly more efficient than crystalloids in attaining resuscitation endpoints as judged by the need for administration of far smaller fluid volumes. Among the colloids, albumin offers several advantages compared with artificial colloids, including less restrictive dose limitations, lower risk of impaired haemostasis, absence of tissue deposition leading to severe prolonged pruritus, reduced incidence of anaphylactoid reactions, and ease of monitoring to prevent fluid overload. The cost of albumin, nevertheless, limits its usage. Crystalloids currently serve as the first-line fluids in hypovolaemic patients. Colloids can be considered in patients with severe or acute shock or hypovolaemia resulting from sudden plasma loss. Colloids may be combined with crystalloids to obviate administration of large crystalloid volumes. Further clinical trials are needed to define the optimal role for colloids in critically ill patients.

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