A Case-Control Analysis of Postoperative Fluid Balance and Mortality After Pediatric Cardiac Surgery*

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A positive fluid balance after cardiac surgery may be associated with poor outcomes; however, previous studies looking at this association have been limited by the number of deaths in the study population. Our primary aim was to determine the relationship between postoperative cumulative fluid balance and mortality in cardiac surgical patients. Secondary aims were to study the association between fluid balance and duration of mechanical ventilation, intensive care and hospital length of stay.


Case-control study.


A 30-bed multidisciplinary PICU.


All patients admitted to the PICU following cardiac surgery from 2010 to 2014.


Deaths during PICU admission following cardiac surgery (cases) were matched 1:3 with children who survived to PICU discharge (controls) using the following criteria: age at surgery (within a 20% age range), Risk Adjusted Congenital Heart Surgery (RACHS-1) category, and year of admission.

Measurements and Main Results:

Of 1,996 eligible children, 46 died (2.3%) of whom 45 (98%) were successfully matched. Cumulative fluid balance on days 2 and 7 was not associated with PICU mortality. On multivariable analysis, factors associated with mortality were cardiopulmonary bypass time (per 10-min increase, odds ratio [95% CI], 1.06 [1.00–1.12]; p = 0.03), extracorporeal membrane oxygenation requirement within 3 days (46.6 [9.47–230.11]; p < 0.001), peak serum chloride (mmol/L) in the first 48 hours (1.12 [1.01–1.23]), and time to start peritoneal dialysis after surgery (in comparison to no peritoneal dialysis, odds ratio [95% CI] in those started on early peritoneal dialysis was 1.07 [0.33–3.41]; p = 0.90 and in late peritoneal dialysis 3.65 [1.21–10.99]; p = 0.02). Children with cumulative fluid balance greater than or equal to 5% by day 2 spent longer on mechanical ventilation (median [interquartile range], 211 hr [97–539] vs 93 hr [34–225]; p <0.001), in PICU (11 d [8–26] vs 6 [3–13]; p < 0.001) and in hospital (22 d [13–39] vs 14 d [8–30]; p = 0.001).


Early fluid overload is not associated with mortality. However, it is associated with increased duration of mechanical ventilation and PICU length of stay. Early peritoneal dialysis commencement (compared with late peritoneal dialysis) after surgery was associated with decreased mortality.

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