Published online Jan 6, 2018. doi: 10.5527/wjn.v7.i1.1
Peer-review started: September 19, 2017
First decision: October 23, 2017
Revised: November 16, 2017
Accepted: November 27, 2017
Article in press: November 27, 2017
Published online: January 6, 2018
Core tip: The regulation and clinical disturbances of body fluid and its compartments are traditionally consigned to two concepts. The concept of tonicity of body fluids is critical in the regulation of the volume of body cells. Disturbances in tonicity result from abnormalities in the relation between body water and body solute. The concept of extracellular volume plays a critical role in the regulation of perfusion of body cells and organs. Disturbances in extracellular volume result primarily from abnormalities in sodium salt balance. Various methods for measuring body water and extracellular volume have been extensively applied in clinical practice. However, precise determination of the optimal body fluid volumes encounters difficulties which are greatly accentuated in severe illnesses, because several other factors interacting with extracellular volume in determining tissue perfusion, including cardiac output, capacity of the blood vessels, and Starling forces, are significantly altered in these illnesses. The aforementioned factors cause changes in the extracellular volume and create the need for optimal levels of this volume that are higher than those of healthy individuals and the need for newer methods for evaluating body fluid volumes. Thus, fluid regulation in severe illness represents an evolving concept of body fluid balance separate from the two traditional concepts. Important questions about this third concept remain unanswered underscoring the need for further research.