What Are Isotonic Fluids?

Isotonic Fluids
Isotonic Fluids (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Isotonic fluids are solutions made of nutrients commonly found in food or multivitamins. The solutions are specially formulated so that they contain the same amount of dissolved substances as are normally present in the cells of a normal, healthy individual. The unique balance and fluid delivery method allows cells to easily absorb the missing nutrients and improve the general health and well being of the recipient.

Types of Isotonic Fluids

There are three types of isotonic fluids or solutions that are commonly used in hospitals to stabilize, maintain and improve the health of patients. These include lactated ringers, normal saline and D5W. Each of these solutions is typically administered to the patient through an intravenous vein therapy which consists of placing a needle in the vein which is connected to a tubing apparatus and retainer bag. Gravity helps the fluid travel into the veins at the desired rate for maximum efficiency of delivery.

Lactated Ringer

Lactated ringers are sterile, isotonic solutions that can be used for a variety of purposes to include sterile irrigation, washing, rinsing and injection. Lactated ringers consist of a mixture of water and sodium chloride, sodium lactate, anhydrous, potassium chloride, calcium chloride or dihydrate.The mixture of ingredients in relation to water is determined by the ingredient chosen to ensure that pH stays between 6.0 and 7.5. This type of solution is commonly used to replace potassium and calcium that may be lost by patients due to certain medical conditions.

Normal Saline

Normal saline or Sodium Chloride is the most commonly used lactated ringer solution. It is primarily a water solution but it is mixed with 0.9 percent saline by volume. This solution helps to rehydrate individuals that may be suffering from dehydration, or it may be given to patients to ensure continued hydration levels. Saline can also boost blood pressure fluctuations that may result from surgery, stress, disease or other injuries. This solution does not supply calories to patients, but it is quickly and easily absorbed by the body.


The name D5W comes from the contents and percentage of the contents in the solution. D5W is a solution of primarily water that is mixed with five percent Dextrose by volume. Dextrose is a natural sugar commonly found in the body and a major energy source that can help the patients preserve muscle mass and supply calories to patients who are unable to ingest enough food for normal activity and bodily functions.

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