Oral rehydration of malnourished children with diarrhoea and dehydration: A systematic review

Kirsty A Houston, Jack G Gibb, Kathryn Maitland
Wellcome Open Research 2017, 2: 66
Background : Diarrhoea complicates over half of admissions to hospital with severe acute malnutrition (SAM). World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the management of dehydration recommend the use of oral rehydration with ReSoMal (an oral rehydration solution (ORS) for SAM), which has lower sodium (45mmols/l) and higher potassium (40mmols/l) content than old WHO ORS. The composition of ReSoMal was designed specifically to address theoretical risks of sodium overload and potential under-treatment of severe hypokalaemia with rehydration using standard ORS. In African children, severe hyponatraemia at admission is a major risk factor for poor outcome in children with SAM complicated by diarrhoea. We therefore reviewed the evidence for oral rehydration therapy in children with SAM. Methods : We conducted a systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on 18th July 2017 comparing different oral rehydration solutions in severely malnourished children with diarrhoea and dehydration, using standard search terms. The author assessed papers for inclusion. The primary endpoint was frequency of hyponatraemia during rehydration. Results : Six RCTs were identified, all published in English and conducted in low resource settings in Asia. A range of ORS were evaluated in these studies, including old WHO ORS, standard hypo-osmolar WHO ORS and ReSoMal. Hyponatraemia was observed in two trials evaluating ReSoMal, three children developed severe hyponatraemia with one experiencing convulsions. Hypo-osmolar ORS was found to have benefits in time to rehydration, reduction of stool output and duration of diarrhoea. No trials reported over-hydration or fatalities. Conclusions : Current WHO guidelines strongly recommend the use of ReSoMal based on low quality of evidence. Studies indicate a significant risk of hyponatraemia on ReSoMal in Asian children, none have been conducted in Africa, where SAM mortality remains high. Further research should be conducted in Africa to evaluate optimal ORS for children with SAM and to generate evidence based, practical guidelines.

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