Improper use of maintenance intravenous fluids (IVFs) may cause serious hospital-acquired harm. We created an evidence-based clinical pathway to guide providers on the indications for IVF, its preferred composition, and appropriate clinical monitoring.


Pathway implementation was supported by the creation of an electronic order set (PowerPlan) and hospital-wide education. Outcomes were measured among pathway-eligible patients for the years before (July 1, 2014–June 30, 2015) and after (July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016) implementation. An interrupted time series analysis was used to evaluate monthly trends related to IVF use, including the following: median duration, proportions of isotonic and hypotonic IVF, adherence to monitoring recommendations, incidence of associated severe dysnatremia, potassium-containing IVF use in the emergency department, and costs.


There were 11 602 pathway-eligible encounters (10 287 patients) across the study. Median IVF infusion hours did not change. Isotonic maintenance IVF use increased significantly from 9.3% to 50.6%, whereas the use of any hypotonic fluid decreased from 94.2% to 56.6%. There were significant increases in daily weight measurement and recommended serum sodium testing. Cases of dysnatremia increased from 2 to 4 among pathway-eligible patients and were mostly associated with hypotonic IVF use. Patients in the emergency department had a significant increase in the number of potassium-containing IVF bags (52.9% to 75.3%). Total hospitalization and laboratory test costs did not change significantly.


This is the first report of outcomes of a clinical pathway to standardize IVF use. Implementation was feasible in both medical and surgical units, with sustained improvements for 1 year. Future improvement work includes increasing PowerPlan use and developing clinical assessment tools.

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