Kinds of saline solution

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Kinds of saline solution
Saline solution hydrates a patient intravenously. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Saline solution addresses several needs. Used mainly for medicinal purposes, saline solution cleans contacts, clears nasal passages and keeps patients hydrated. Three basic types of saline solution exist: isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic. Saline solutions with added chemicals enrich the solution and offer additional uses.

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Isotonic saline solution is also called physiological saline, or normal saline. It is a solution of sodium chloride (salt) and water. Frequently used for intravenous drips, this saline solution hydrates a patient who cannot take in liquids orally or are in danger of suffering a decreased blood volume. Isotonic saline solution closely resembles the chemical composition of body fluids, increasing its capability to keep the patient hydrated.


Hypotonic contains a lower amount of salt than normal body fluids. The amount of salt varies according to the type of illness that is being treated. This type of saline solution is often used in intravenous drips to rapidly replace fluids in someone who is seriously ill, or has an infection.


Hypertonic saline contains a higher amount of salt in water than normal body fluids. The additional salt causes the blood cells to swell. Hypertonic saline solution is used in the treatment of vericose veins. Doctors use a technique called sclerotherapy. During sclerotherapy, the doctor uses a needle to inject saline solution into the vein, which causes the vein to swell and blood clots to form. The clots form scar tissue, which eventually fades away. It is also commonly used to treat patients suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Saline Solutions with Additives

Sometimes saline solutions contain additional chemicals beyond the water and sodium chloride found in pure saline solutions. The three main types are Ringer, Ems and Gleichenberger. These types of saline solutions are commonly used as nasal sprays and as washes to clean contact lenses. Ringer's solution is used intravenously in some medical situations that would benefit from the added glucose and potassium chloride.

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