Wisconsin hospitals conserving saline in shortage

Kerry Poltrock, left and Josh Martin going through training which includes the use of a saline lock as a default instead of the 1000 cc saline drip

MILWAUKEE: Wisconsin’s hospitals and first responders are conserving intravenous saline solution after federal officials warned of a national shortage possibly linked to an influenza outbreak.

Medical officials say they’re cautious but not worried yet and patient care shouldn’t be affected. Suppliers of the salt solution, which is used to rehydrate trauma patients and assist in the delivery of drugs, say they’re ramping up production but can’t guarantee when the supply will be fully replenished.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began receiving reports in December of supply problems, production delays due to maintenance and other issues at three major saline-solution makers. The FDA began monitoring the situation and seeking alternate sources, said Valerie Jensen, the associate director of the agency’s drug-shortages program.

She said the problem was exacerbated by high demand, potentially due to an increase in influenza patients who needed fluids.

FDA officials haven’t heard of situations where patient care has been affected, but doctors are reassessing how they use saline solution.

“Hospitals are having to make decisions to treat more critical patients,” Jensen said.

First responders also are being cautious, conserving their supplies and using smaller dosages.

Dr. Charles Cady, the medical director for the Kenosha Fire Department, said his staffers routinely administer sterile salt solution to patients with trauma, blood loss or low blood pressure. Also, if a patient needs an intravenous injection, a saline flow helps push the drug into the vein, he said.

Now, instead of administering saline routinely, first responders are saving it for patients who absolutely need it, he said. -AP

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