Hypertonicity affects many parts of the immune system. Animal studies and experiments in isolated cell cultures show that hypertonicity reversibly suppresses several neutrophil functions and at the same time up-regulates T-lymphocyte function. Infusion of hypertonic saline with or without colloids may thus, besides providing efficient plasma volume expansion, ameliorate the detrimental consequences on the immune function of trauma, shock, reperfusion, and major surgery. However, the few clinical studies conducted to date, specifically addressing the immune effect of hypertonic saline infusion, have shown little, if any, effect on markers of immune function, and larger clinical trials have not demonstrated benefit in terms of morbidity or mortality. Thus, as opposed to animal and cell-culture studies, the immune-modulating properties of hypertonic saline infusion would appear to be of limited value in clinical practice.
This review presents in vitro studies, animal experiments, and clinical trials which investigated the consequences of hypertonic saline on markers of immune function.