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Background. Paediatric hypernatraemia is a severe and life-threatening electrolyte abnormality that is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. Although intravenous (IV) fluid therapy is a crucial component of management, there are no management guidelines, and varying approaches to IV fluid therapy are commonplace in clinical practice.
Objectives. To determine the variance in IV fluid therapy in the management of paediatric hypernatraemia among paediatric registrars and consultants in South Africa.
Methods. A self-administered online survey was conducted from November 2020 to February 2021. The survey assessed paediatricians’ management of three typical clinical scenarios of community-acquired hypernatraemia seen in South Africa. Descriptive results were presented as proportions, frequencies and medians with interquartile ranges. Comparisons were done using contingency tables.
Results. Responses from 119 participants were analysed. Most respondents worked in the state sector (69.8%), and were based mainly in Gauteng (46.2%) or Western Cape (25.2%) province. Most (60.2%) respondents considered a serum sodium level ≥146 mmol/L indicative of hypernatraemia, and 43.6% (n=51/117) reported seeing >10 cases of paediatric hypernatraemia in 2019. For all three cases, at least eight different types of infusate (of varying sodium concentrations) were chosen as maintenance fluids. Fluid deficits were calculated using either the free water method or based on the perceived degree/percentage of clinical dehydration.
Conclusion. There is considerable variability in the management of hypernatraemia among paediatricians in South Africa. There is an urgent need to develop a standardised guideline for the treatment of paediatric hypernatraemia.
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