Saltier saline can reduce surgical complications, Thomas Jefferson team finds

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    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    Medical innovations don’t have to come in the form of cutting-edge surgical robots. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have found success just by tinkering with the basic IV drip.

    Professor of surgery Harish Lavu said a common problem for patients undergoing extended surgeries is an accumulation of the saline that’s given to keep them hydrated, with normal blood pressure and proper organ function.

    “Having too much fluid on board can ultimately result in greater strain on the organs,” he said. “It also, on a tissue level, results in less delivery of oxygen.”

    The solution? Saline that’s about three times as salty.

    The higher concentration allowed the Jefferson team to reduce the amount of fluid given to patients undergoing a Whipple procedure — a long, complex pancreatic surgery — from about eight liters to just five or six. That tweak resulted in a 25 to 31 percent decrease in complications.

    Lavu said for surgeons and patients, that’s an important improvement, “especially when you consider that adjusting the type of fluid and the volume of fluid given is not a major change.”

    Thomas Jefferson now makes the saltier saline standard on all of its Whipple surgeries, and is in the process of educating surgeons about the possible benefits of using it with other lengthy procedures.

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