Fluid Overload - Diagnosis, Treatment and Outlook (Prognosis)

How is fluid overload diagnosed?

A number of conditions produce signs and symptoms that resemble fluid overload, and these need to be excluded. These conditions include:

  • Lung problems, such as blood clots, infections, asthma.
  • Heart problems, such as inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericarditis).
  • Problems with the venous circulation or lymphatic circulation.
  • Disorders causing a low protein level in the blood (hypoproteinaemia).
  • Liver disease.
  • Thyroid disease.

Will I need any tests?

It's not surprising that with all these conditions to rule out you will need several tests. These may include:

What are the treatment options for fluid overload?

The treatment depends on your symptoms.

See separate leaflet on the treatment of sudden-onset (acute) fluid overload of the lungs, called Pulmonary Oedema. There is also more information available on heart failure treatment. See separate leaflet called Heart Failure.

What is the outlook for fluid overload?

This depends on the underlying cause and how well you were before the fluid overload occurred. For example, if the fluid overload was due to a problem with your heart, the outlook (prognosis) depends on how treatable your heart condition is. If the fluid overload resulted from being given too much fluid during intravenous treatment, the outlook will depend on the reason why you needed intravenous fluid in the first place. If you were given it because you had just had a simple operation but were well beforehand, the outlook should be good once the overload is corrected. However, if intravenous treatment was given because you had a serious problem such as extensive burns, correcting the overload may be more complicated.

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  • Kim IY, Kim JH, Lee DW, et al; Fluid overload and survival in critically ill patients with acute kidney injury receiving continuous renal replacement therapy. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 14 12(2):e0172137. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172137. eCollection 2017.
  • Byrne L, Van Haren F; Fluid resuscitation in human sepsis: Time to rewrite history? Ann Intensive Care. 2017 Dec 7(1):4. doi: 10.1186/s13613-016-0231-8. Epub 2017 Jan 3.
  • Glatz T, Kulemann B, Marjanovic G, et al; Postoperative fluid overload is a risk factor for adverse surgical outcome in patients undergoing esophagectomy for esophageal cancer: a retrospective study in 335 patients. BMC Surg. 2017 Jan 13 17(1):6. doi: 10.1186/s12893-016-0203-9.
Dr Laurence Knott
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
29443 (v1)
Last Checked:
09 July 2017
Next Review:
08 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.