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5 Standard iv infusion concentration in paediatric and neonatal units: a national survey
  1. Nanna Christiansen
  1. Lead Clinical Pharmacist Paediatrics, UCL School of Pharmacy


Aim The National Patient Safety Agency in the UK has advocated the use of standard concentration (SC) infusions to improve patient safety and care.1 National standards have been adopted for infusions in the adult critical care setting however practice in paediatric and neonatal settings still varies and presents a challenge.2,3 This study is part of a multi-professional collaborative working towards a national consensus on SC infusions in paediatric and neonatal care. The study aims to explore the practice of standardised concentration usage for Intravenous (IV) infusions in paediatric and neonatal units in the UK, specifically:

  • How many units use standardised concentration for IV infusions.

  • Evaluate the variation and overlap of continuous IV infusion concentrations in practice.

  • Assess what devices are used to administer these infusions.

  • How standardised infusions are provided.

Method The study used a quantitative descriptive survey design via an online self-administered questionnaire. Paediatric and neonatal intensive care units in the UK were surveyed through pharmacy, nursing, and medical networks to describe current practice. Data was collected for 25 days and analysed using SPSS.

Result A total of 194 NICUs and 39 PICUs were surveyed. Responses were received from 71 units: NICU 46 (65%); PICU 17 (24%) and 8 other (11%), giving an overall response rate of 30.5%.

Twenty-eight units (40%) have established SC for IV infusions, 18 units provided information on presentation of SC infusions. Forty-six different medication infusions were standardised. Considering the differences in concentration, weight-bands, diluents, volume and presentation, there were 273 variations for these drugs. Taking only the concentration into account, there were 137 variations presented. The average number of variations per medication was 3 (range 1 to 14).

15 units (53.6%) use ‘smart’ pumps for administration of SC infusions and 3 (10.7%) use other computer software for infusion rate calculations. Infusions are most commonly prepared on wards (81.3%) or in pharmacy (12.3%).

Conclusion The study is limited by the response rate; however the results suggest that 59% of paediatric and neonatal units in the UK use conventional weight-based methods for IV infusions. A third of units have established some SC with a wide variation of concentrations in this sample. Just over half of the units use ‘smart’ pump technology and over three quarters of SC infusions are prepared on the ward.

Further data collection is required to acquire a fuller picture of SC infusions used in UK PICUs and NICUs. This data can then be used as the basis of a national consensus statement on SC infusion, facilitating adoption across the NHS.


  1. NPSA Patient Safety Alert 20: Promoting safer use of injectable medicines2007. London: The National Patient Safety Agency.

  2. MacKay MW, Cash J, Farr F, et al. Improving paediatric outcomes through intravenous and oral medication standardisation. J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther2009;14:226–35.

  3. Phillips MS, Standardising IV. Infusion concentrations: National survey results. Am J Health Syst Pharm2011;68:2176–82.

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