BACKGROUND: Changes in acid-base balance caused by infusion of a 0.9% saline solution during anesthesia and surgery are poorly characterized. Therefore, the authors evaluated these phenomena in a dose-response study. METHODS: Two groups of 12 patients each who were undergoing major intraabdominal gynecologic surgery were assigned randomly to receive 0.9% saline or lactated Ringer's solution in a dosage of 30 ml x kg(-1) x h(-1). The pH, arterial carbon dioxide tension, and serum concentrations of sodium, potassium, chloride, lactate, and total protein were measured in 30-min intervals. The serum bicarbonate concentration was calculated using the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation and also using the Stewart approach from the strong ion difference and the amount of weak plasma acid. The strong ion difference was calculated as serum sodium + serum potassium - serum chloride - serum lactate. The amount of weak plasma acid was calculated as the serum total protein concentration in g/dl x 2.43. RESULTS: Infusion of 0.9% saline, but not lactated Ringer's solution, caused a metabolic acidosis with hyperchloremia and a concomitant decrease in the strong ion difference. Calculating the serum bicarbonate concentration using the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation or the Stewart approach produced equivalent results. CONCLUSIONS: Infusion of approximately 30 ml x kg(-1) x h(-1) saline during anesthesia and surgery inevitably leads to metabolic acidosis, which is not observed after administration of lactated Ringer's solution. The acidosis is associated with hyperchloremia.
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