Medscape is available in 5 Language Editions – Choose your Edition here.


Hypoalbuminemia Medication

  • Author: Ruben Peralta, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, MCCM  more...
Updated: Apr 01, 2015

Medication Summary

Hypoalbuminemia is a common phenomenon in patients with serious illness. Treatment should focus on the underlying cause rather than simply replacing albumin. Exogenous albumin is not used for the purpose of raising serum albumin levels.

Indications and the use of albumin administration in critically ill patients is an area of controversy; studies to clarify these issues are ongoing.[3]

Although prior meta-analysis of small studies suggested that albumin infusions may be harmful (increasing the mortality rate by 6% as compared with crystalloid), a large multicenter clinical trial (SAFE) documented that, except in patients with neurotrauma, albumin infusions did not measurably affect outcome.[4] In patients with neurotrauma, these trials found a small, but significant, increase in mortality as compared with crystalloid therapy.

Outcomes are similar regardless of baseline serum albumin concentration; albumin administration for patients with hypoalbuminemia has no added benefit. Based on these studies of patients with septic shock, the benefit of colloid versus crystalloid administration for critically ill patients is not clearly demonstrated. Furthermore, the relative amount of albumin that can be effectively replenished by infusion is minimal, considering the normal albumin turnover rate.

These findings are in contrast to prior studies that also found no difference or increased mortality among those receiving albumin. Preliminary studies, including a favorable study by Dubois (2006), examined the effect of albumin on organ function in critically ill patients, but additional work is needed in this area.[5]

For patients with hypoalbumenemia and critical illness, the administration of albumin has not been shown to reduce mortality.[6]

Limited indications for albumin supplementation exist, and considerable clinical judgment is required when albumin is administered. Albumin has been used as one part of regimens designed to prevent hepatorenal syndrome in patients with cirrhosis; however, this is controversial and survival benefit has not been clearly established. However, in general, albumin is not given specifically to treat hypoalbuminemia, which is a marker for serious disease.

Like crystalloids, colloids produce a dilutional effect on hemoglobin and clotting factors. Clinicians need to monitor the appropriate parameters to safeguard against iatrogenic complications.

Considering fluid resuscitation more generally, recent investigation found that 6% hydroxyethyl starch used for resuscitation in patients with severe sepsis was associated with a significant increase in acute renal failure, calling this approach into question.

The most effective method of minimizing hypoalbuminemia and restoring serum oncotic pressure is by creating a positive nitrogen balance. This is usually accomplished by enteral protein feeding and reversing the inflammatory state, if present. Clearly, those patients with nephrotic syndrome need the nephrosis treated as a primary problem. The importance of enteral nutrition as an early and continued treatment for hypoalbuminemia cannot be overemphasized.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Ruben Peralta, MD, FACS Professor of Surgery, Anesthesia and Emergency Medicine, Senior Medical Advisor, Board of Directors, Program Chief of Trauma, Emergency and Critical Care, Consulting Staff, Professor Juan Bosch Trauma Hospital, Dominican Republic

Ruben Peralta, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Blood Banks, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Massachusetts Medical Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, American College of Healthcare Executives

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Brad A Rubery, MD Consulting Staff, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine, Gastroenterology Associates

Brad A Rubery, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Harold L Manning, MD Professor, Departments of Medicine, Anesthesiology and Physiology, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School

Harold L Manning, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, MCCM Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Bioengineering, Cardiovascular Disease, Clinical and Translational Science and Anesthesiology, Vice-Chair of Academic Affairs, Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, MCCM is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, Association of University Anesthetists, European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, American College of Critical Care Medicine, American Heart Association, American Thoracic Society, Shock Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine

Disclosure: Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: Masimo<br/>Received honoraria from LiDCO Ltd for consulting; Received intellectual property rights from iNTELOMED for board membership; Received honoraria from Edwards Lifesciences for consulting; Received honoraria from Masimo, Inc for board membership.

Additional Contributors

Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC Professor and Head, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba; Site Director, Respiratory Medicine, St Boniface General Hospital

Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Thoracic Society, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Royal Society of Medicine, Society of Critical Care Medicine, World Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

  1. Eljaiek R, Dubois MJ. Hypoalbuminemia in the first 24h of admission is associated with organ dysfunction in burned patients. Burns. 2012 Jun 7. [Medline].

  2. Rujirojindakul P, Geater AF, McNeil EB, Vasinanukorn P, Prathep S, Asim W, et al. Risk factors for reintubation in the post-anaesthetic care unit: a case-control study. Br J Anaesth. 2012 Jul 9. [Medline].

  3. Vincent JL. Relevance of albumin in modern critical care medicine. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2009 Jun. 23(2):183-91. [Medline].

  4. Finfer S, Bellomo R, McEvoy S, Lo SK, Myburgh J, Neal B, et al. Effect of baseline serum albumin concentration on outcome of resuscitation with albumin or saline in patients in intensive care units: analysis of data from the saline versus albumin fluid evaluation (SAFE) study. BMJ. 2006 Nov 18. 333(7577):1044. [Medline].

  5. Dubois MJ, Orellana-Jimenez C, Melot C, De Backer D, Berre J, Leeman M, et al. Albumin administration improves organ function in critically ill hypoalbuminemic patients: A prospective, randomized, controlled, pilot study. Crit Care Med. 2006 Oct. 34(10):2536-40. [Medline].

  6. Roberts I, Blackhall K, Alderson P, Bunn F, Schierhout G. Human albumin solution for resuscitation and volume expansion in critically ill patients. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Nov 9. CD001208. [Medline].

  7. Chojkier M. Inhibition of albumin synthesis in chronic diseases: molecular mechanisms. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 Apr. 39(4 Suppl 2):S143-6. [Medline].

  8. [Guideline] Dellinger RP, Levy MM, Rhodes A, et al. Surviving Sepsis Campaign: international guidelines for management of severe sepsis and septic shock, 2012. Intensive Care Med. 2013 Feb. 39(2):165-228. [Medline].

  9. Haller C. Hypoalbuminemia in renal failure: pathogenesis and therapeutic considerations. Kidney Blood Press Res. 2005. 28(5-6):307-10. [Medline].

  10. Kalantar-Zadeh K, Kilpatrick RD, Kuwae N, McAllister CJ, Alcorn H Jr, Kopple JD. Revisiting mortality predictability of serum albumin in the dialysis population: time dependency, longitudinal changes and population-attributable fraction. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2005 Sep. 20(9):1880-8. [Medline].

  11. McIntyre LA, Fergusson D, Cook DJ, Nair RC, Bell D, Dhingra V, et al. Resuscitating patients with early severe sepsis: a Canadian multicentre observational study. Can J Anaesth. 2007 Oct. 54(10):790-8. [Medline].

  12. McIntyre LA, Hébert PC, Fergusson D, Cook DJ, Aziz A. A survey of Canadian intensivists' resuscitation practices in early septic shock. Crit Care. 2007. 11(4):R74. [Medline].

  13. Myburgh J, Cooper DJ, Finfer S, Bellomo R, Norton R, Bishop N, et al. Saline or albumin for fluid resuscitation in patients with traumatic brain injury. N Engl J Med. 2007 Aug 30. 357(9):874-84. [Medline].

  14. Reuben DB. Quality indicators for the care of undernutrition in vulnerable elders. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Oct. 55 Suppl 2:S438-42. [Medline].

  15. Sullivan DH, Roberson PK, Bopp MM. Hypoalbuminemia 3 months after hospital discharge: significance for long-term survival. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Jul. 53(7):1222-6. [Medline].

All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.