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IV Solution Cheat Sheet

IV solutions are used to restore fluid balance in patients when water is lost. Fluid loss may cause electrolyte imbalances, stress on the body systems, and impaired cognitive function. IV solutions differ in composition, osmolality. and in use. It is important for all nurses to understand fluids, their properties and proper use and side effects of administration. Print and use this resource as a quick reference guide!
Please note: These lists are for reference and educational use only. Pedagogy does not recommend the use of any product or product manufacturer. 

Download a printable copy of the IV Solutions Cheat Sheet

This resource accompanies our  Basics of Peripheral IV Therapy continuing education course, which is also part of many of our IV Certification course packages


IV Solution Cheat Sheet

Type Description Osmolality Use Misc.
Saline (NS) 0.9% NaCl in
 water crystalloid solution
(308 mOsm)
Increases circulating plasma volume when red cells are adequate Replaces losses without altering fluids concentrations

Helpful for Na+ replacement
½ Normal Saline
( ½ NS)
0.45% NaCl in water crystalloid solution Hypotonic
(154 mOsm)
Raises total fluid volume
Useful for daily maintenance of body fluid, but is of less value for replacement of NaCl deficit

Helpful for establishing renal function
Fluid replacement for clients who don’t need extra glucose (diabetics)
Lactated Ringer’s (LR) Normal saline with electrolytes and buffer Isotonic
(275 mOsm)
Replaces fluid buffers pH Normal saline with K+, Ca++, and lactate (buffer)

Often seen with surgery
D5W Dextrose 5% in water crystalloid solution Isotonic
(in the bag)
*Physiologically hypotonic
(260 mOsm)
Raises total fluid volume. Helpful in rehydrating and excretory purposes Provides 170–200 calories / 1,000cc for energy

Physiologically hypotonic – the dextrose is metabolized quickly so that only water remains – a hypotonic fluid
D5NS Dextrose 5% in 0.9% saline Hypertonic
 (560 mOsm)
Replaces fluid sodium, chloride, and calories
Watch for fluid volume overload
D5 ½ NS Dextrose 5% in 0.45% saline Hypertonic
(406 mOsm)
Useful for daily maintenance of body fluids and nutrition, and for rehydration
Most common postoperative fluid
D5LR Dextrose 5% in Lactated Ringer’s Hypertonic
(575 mOsm)
Same as LR plus provides about 180 calories per 1000cc’s Watch for fluid volume overload
Normosol-R Normosol Isotonic
(295 mOsm)
Replaces fluid and buffers pH pH 7.4

Contains sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium and magnesium

Common fluid for OR and PACU

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