Liberal or restrictive fluid management during elective surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Pim B. B. Schol*, Ivon M. Terink, Markus D. Lance, Hubertina C.J. Scheepers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article reviews if a restrictive fluid management policy reduces the complication rate if compared to liberal fluid management policy during elective surgery. The PubMed database was explored by 2 independent researchers. We used the following search terms: "Blood transfusion (MESH); transfusion need; fluid therapy (MESH); permissive hypotension; fluid management; resuscitation; restrictive fluid management; liberal fluid management; elective surgery; damage control resuscitation; surgical procedures, operative (MESH); wounds (MESH); injuries (MESH); surgery; trauma patients." A secondary search in the Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Cochrane library revealed no additional results. We selected randomized controlled trials performed during elective surgeries. Patients were randomly assigned to a restrictive fluid management policy or to a liberal fluid management policy during elective surgery. The patient characteristics and the type of surgery varied. All but 3 studies reported American Society of Anaesthesiologists groups 1 to 3 as the inclusion criterion. The primary outcome of interest is total number of patients with a complication and the complication rate. Secondary outcome measures are infection rate, transfusion need, postoperative rebleeding, hospital stay, and renal function. In total, 1397 patients were analyzed (693 restrictive protocol, 704 liberal protocol). Meta-analysis showed that in the restrictive group as compared with the liberal group, fewer patients experienced a complication (relative risk [RR], 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.55-0.78). The total complication rate (RR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.52-0.64), risk of infection (RR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.48-0.79), and transfusion rate (RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.66-0.99) were also lower. The postoperative rebleeding did not differ in both groups: RR, 0.76 (95% CI, 0.28-2.06). We conclude that compared with a liberal fluid policy, a restrictive fluid policy in elective surgery results in a 35% reduction in patient with a complication and should be advised as the preferred fluid management policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-39
JournalJournal of Clinical Anesthesia
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Elective surgical procedures
  • Fluid therapy
  • Review, systematic


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