Albumin abuse in intensive care medicine
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Albumin is a much abused and expensive drug in intensive care units. One of the motivations for its use is the prevention of pulmonary edema by enhancing the colloid osmotic pressure (COP). Fear of pulmonary edema has led to the formulation of a magic (arbitrary) albumin value varying from one intensive care unit to another. Many intensive care units start substituting albumin when it is below 25 g/l. The objective of this paper is to look at the rationale of this policy. Our results show that in intensive care patients, with a variety of primary diagnoses, a poor correlation exists between COP and serum albumin concentration (r=0.56; p(0.001). To get an index of the colloid osmotic status of the I. C.-patient measuring albumin concentration is useless and COP should be measured instead. From 19 patients with a COP in the 15.0–20.0 mmHg range (corresponding albumin range: 12.0–25.0 g/l) and from 10 patients with a COP in the 11.6–15.0 mmHg range (corresponding albumin range 10.5–19.2 g/l) none developed pulmonary edema. It is questionable if expensive, scarce albumin is the drug of choice with which to increase COP, for the mean increase (±SD) in COP after infusion of 100 grams albumin is 2.2 (±1.5) mmHg (p(0.001). Adopting a COP action level of 15 mmHg can lead to considerable savings.
Key wordsAlbumin Colloid osmotic pressure Oncotic pressure Oncometer-pulmonary edema
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