UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: We're supposed to flood pancreatitis patients with fluids... right?

Keywords: Pancreatitis, IV Fluids, Hydration (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/28/2023 by Mark Sutherland, MD (Updated: 6/14/2024)
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The classic teaching is that patients with acute pancreatitis should be aggressively hydrated with IV fluids.  But as we increasingly question heavy handed fluid strategies in other areas such as sepsis, should we look at pancreatitis management too?

Li et al did a systematic review of the literature on aggressive fluid resuscitation (the exact protocol/definition varied per study, but we're mostly talking 15-20 mL/kg boluses followed by 3-5 mL/kg/hr infusion) vs less aggressive fluid resuscitation (mostly 10 mL/kg boluses followed by 1.5 mL/kg/hr infusion).  They found that aggressive resuscitation worsened mortality in severe pancreatitis (RR 2.45) and trended towards worse mortality in non-severe pancreatitis (RR 2.26, but CI crossed 1).  Aggressive was associated with more complications in both severe and non-severe pancreatitis pancreatitis.

Multiple society guidelines still call for aggressive IVF resuscitation for acute pancreatitis, but probably need to be updated given mounting evidence that this is harmful.  More recent guidelines suggest "goal-directed therapy", but no one is completely sure what that means.  


Bottom Line:  In acute pancreatitis, a more conservative empiric IVF resuscitation is probably better than the clasically taught aggressive approach.  Whether even less fluids would be better or worse is not known, but for now it's probably best to stick to a 10 mL/kg bolus and 1-2 mL/kg/hr infusion when ordering fluids for these patients unless you have another indication.



Li, XW., Wang, CH., Dai, JW.  Comparison of clinical outcomes between aggressive and non-aggressive intravenous hydration for acute pancreatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Care 27, 122 (2023).

de-Madaria E, Buxbaum JL, Maisonneuve P, García García de Paredes A, Zapater P, Guilabert L, Vaillo-Rocamora A, Rodríguez-Gandía MÁ, Donate-Ortega J, Lozada-Hernández EE, Collazo Moreno AJR, Lira-Aguilar A, Llovet LP, Mehta R, Tandel R, Navarro P, Sánchez-Pardo AM, Sánchez-Marin C, Cobreros M, Fernández-Cabrera I, Casals-Seoane F, Casas Deza D, Lauret-Braña E, Martí-Marqués E, Camacho-Montaño LM, Ubieto V, Ganuza M, Bolado F; ERICA Consortium. Aggressive or Moderate Fluid Resuscitation in Acute Pancreatitis. N Engl J Med. 2022 Sep 15;387(11):989-1000. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2202884. PMID: 36103415.