Effects of intravenous solutions on acid-base equilibrium: From crystalloids to colloids and blood components

Thomas Langer, Michele Ferrari, Luca Zazzeron, Luciano Gattinoni, Pietro Caironi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intravenous fluid administration is a medical intervention performed worldwide on a daily basis. Nevertheless, only a few physicians are aware of the characteristics of intravenous fluids and their possible effects on plasma acid-base equilibrium. According to Stewart's theory, pH is independently regulated by three variables: partial pressure of carbon dioxide, strong ion difference (SID), and total amount of weak acids (ATOT). When fluids are infused, plasma SID and ATOT tend toward the SID and ATOT of the administered fluid. Depending on their composition, fluids can therefore lower, increase, or leave pH unchanged. As a general rule, crystalloids having a SID greater than plasma bicarbonate concentration (HCO3-) cause an increase in plasma pH (alkalosis), those having a SID lower than HCO3- cause a decrease in plasma pH (acidosis), while crystalloids with a SID equal to HCO3- leave pH unchanged, regardless of the extent of the dilution. Colloids and blood components are composed of a crystalloid solution as solvent, and the abovementioned rules partially hold true also for these fluids. The scenario is however complicated by the possible presence of weak anions (albumin, phosphates and gelatins) and their effect on plasma pH. The present manuscript summarises the characteristics of crystalloids, colloids, buffer solutions and blood components and reviews their effect on acid-base equilibrium. Understanding the composition of intravenous fluids, along with the application of simple physicochemical rules best described by Stewart's approach, are pivotal steps to fully elucidate and predict alterations of plasma acid-base equilibrium induced by fluid therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-360
Number of pages11
JournalAnaesthesiology Intensive Therapy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Acid-base equilibrium
  • Albumin
  • Blood components
  • Colloids
  • Crystalloids
  • Intravenous infusions
  • Stewart's approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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