What Is Lactated Ringer's Solution and How Is It Used?

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If you've been injured or gone through surgery, there's a good chance you've received Lactated Ringer's. Odd though the name is, Lactated Ringer's is an important adjunct to care and has few side effects.

Lactated Ringer’s is a sterile solution that is used to replace fluid lost by the body. It is commonly used for fluid resuscitation, meaning that the patient needs an aggressive fluid replacement for blood loss or illness. It looks like water, but it contains additives including calcium, potassium, lactate, sodium, and chloride.

Lactated Ringer’s is also known as LR, Ringer’s Lactate and Ringer’s.

Why It's Called Lactated Ringer’s

In the late 1800s. a physician named Sydney Ringer developed a solution that contained calcium, potassium, sodium, and chloride in water. The solution was referred to as “Ringer’s,” after its inventor.

Years later, a physician named Alexis Hartmann determined that adding lactate to the solution made it more suitable for pediatric patients. Lactate is the chemical that is produced by our muscles during exercise and is a natural part of milk. With the addition of lactate, the solution became known as “Lactated Ringer’s.”

Why It's Used

Lactated Ringer’s is typically used to replace lost fluid, blood, or both. Due to the sodium content, it is typically not used as an ongoing fluid replacement but instead is frequently used when large volumes of fluid must be given, known as fluid resuscitation. Lactated Ringer’s is often used instead of a normal saline solution because it contains both fluid and electrolytes, and is suitable for both children and adults. Lactated Ringer's also has fewer potential side effects than normal saline.

Severe burns, trauma, significant blood loss, and severe fluid loss (caused by dehydration, surgery or other problems) are just some of the cases in which Lactated Ringer's is given.

Small amounts of Lactated Ringer’s may be given as a maintenance IV, providing necessary fluids when a patient is unable to drink enough fluid to support their normal body functions.

Risks and Side Effects

There are few risks associated with Lactated Ringer's that are not associated with any intravenous fluid. Specifically, risks include:

  • Pain at the IV location
  • Allergic reaction to the solution
  • Overuse of fluids
  • Overdose of electrolytes, chloride, or potassium

Because there is a possibility of overuse, it's important that practitioners carefully monitor patients receiving Lactated Ringer's.

Lactated Ringer's has been evaluated and found safe for use in most adults and children. It has not been fully evaluated for use with geriatric patients, pregnant women, or infants. In addition, it should not be used with patients who have renal or cardiac disease.

How It's Given

Lactated Ringer’s is administered intravenously (through an IV), directly into the bloodstream. It is never taken orally. It is often given in emergency situations or following surgery.

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  1. Singh S, Davis D. Ringer's Lactate. [Updated 2019 Mar 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.

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