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Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, Vol 52, Issue 3 M169-M176, Copyright © 1997 by The Gerontological Society of America


A systematic review of the evidence for hypodermoclysis to treat dehydration in older people

PA Rochon, SS Gill, J Litner, M Fischbach, AJ Goodison and M Gordon
Department of Medicine, University of Toronto.

BACKGROUND: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the evidence supporting the use of hypodermoclysis (i.e., subcutaneous infusion of fluids) to treat dehydrated elderly patients, and to discuss clinical applications of this mode of therapy in the long-term care setting. METHOD: Articles reporting the use of hypodermoclysis were identified using a systematic MEDLINE search between January 1966 and May 1996. Articles were included in our sample if they contained original patient data that evaluated either the efficacy or adverse effects associated with the use of subcutaneous infusions to treat dehydration in adults, whether hyaluronidase was required to facilitate the absorption of subcutaneous fluid, or if potassium could be added to the solution. RESULTS: Eighteen articles met the inclusion criteria. Since we hypothesized that adverse effects associated with hypodermoclysis may have been related largely to the use of nonelectrolyte or hypertonic solutions, the studies were evaluated according to the type of fluid administered. Six hundred and eighty-five patients were described in 13 studies evaluating the efficacy and toxicity of subcutaneously administered fluid. Four studies evaluated hypodermoclysis using electrolyte-containing solutions in 25 patients. Two of these were randomized control trials (RCT) that compared hypodermoclysis to intravenous therapy. Both reported similar absorption of fluids. In the single RCT that evaluated adverse effects, 4 of 17 patients receiving hypodermoclysis reported minor side effects similar to those reported with intravenous therapy. Adverse effects were more severe when electrolyte-free or hypertonic solutions were evaluated. Of the 639 patients who may have received electrolyte-free solutions, 16 patients (2.5%) reported adverse effects, 8 of which were severe. Both patients reported to have received hypertonic solutions noted adverse effects, one of which was severe. The use of hyaluronidase to facilitate absorption was evaluated in 74 patients. These studies suggest that hyaluronidase improves the speed of fluid absorption but may not change the patient's comfort level. A single case report of 350 subcutaneous infusions in 67 patients investigated the administration of up to 34 mmol/L of potassium chloride (KCl) by hypodermoclysis. The only adverse reaction observed was discomfort at the infusion site. CONCLUSIONS: Hypodermoclysis can be used to most safely provide fluids when electrolyte-containing fluids are administered. Hypodermoclysis may have fallen into disuse because of reports of severe adverse reactions related to infusions of electrolyte-free or hypertonic solutions that would likely be considered inappropriate today. Whether or not hyaluronidase is required to promote subcutaneous fluid absorption remains unresolved. Limited evidence suggests that potassium chloride may, with caution, be safely added to subcutaneous infusions. The majority of the available studies evaluating hypodermoclysis are of poor quality. Because of the tremendous potential benefits of administering fluid subcutaneously, there is a need for good quality studies to evaluate the efficacy of hypodermoclysis.

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Evid Based MedHome page
S. Gill
Subcutaneous and intravenous infusions were similarly well accepted, safe, and feasible in older patients with dehydration
Evid. Based Med., September 1, 2003; 8(5): 151 - 151.
[Full Text] [PDF]

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Postgrad Med JHome page
Delivery of fluids by the subcutaneous route
Postgrad. Med. J., July 1, 2000; 76(897): 453 - 453.
[Full Text]

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