Saline shortage causes postponement of oral surgeries

A U.S. shortage of saline intravenous (IV) solution is causing some dentists to postpone oral surgeries.

The shortage is also causing hospitals to carefully manage supplies of saline IV bags, a medical staple of patient rooms and surgical units, according to a billingsgazette.com story.

Scott Manhart, DDS, who operates Periodontal Specialists in Billings, MT, told the paper that the shortage has forced him to reschedule some procedures and postpone others. He's never experienced a saline IV shortage before, he said. Dr. Manhart orders sodium chloride every six weeks, and he was stunned to learn it was unavailable and was unable to find out when he'll be able to get it again.

IV therapy is routinely used on some dental patients, especially those who have complicated, extensive oral surgeries.

The shortage of the sodium chloride injection is being blamed on manufacturing problems and increased demand from hospitals during the current flu season, in which many patients become dehydrated and need intravenous saline. Saline IVs are often used to correct electrolyte imbalances and replace fluids in patients.

The FDA is concerned about the shortage and is working with three manufacturers, Baxter, Hospira, and B. Braun Medical, to increase supplies, according to an agency spokesman.

Millions of bags of IV saline solution are used weekly, and the American Society of Health System Pharmacists said the shortage is critical, the story stated.

Some 80% to 90% of all patients are given IV saline during hospital stays. Some hospitals have resorted to using nonsaline solutions and telling staff to conserve.

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