The use of normal saline instillation in the intensive care unit by physiotherapists: a survey of practice in New Zealand
Normal saline instillation is used by health professionals during the treatment of intubated patients within the intensive care unit, usually to enhance sputum yield. Its use is controversial; detrimental effects have been documented and evidence of any benefit is limited. Some studies have suggested routine use be discontinued. This study investigates the use of normal saline instillation in the intensive care unit by physiotherapists throughout New Zealand. A purpose-designed postal survey was administered to the senior physiotherapist in all intensive care units in New Zealand (n = 25). A response rate of 76% (n = 19) was obtained. Instillation of normal saline was reported as being practised in 79% (n = 15) of hospital intensive care units; however, physiotherapists reported being involved in this practice in only 58% (n = 11) of cases. Of the respondents who reported never using normal saline instillation (42%, n = 8), the majority based this on the lack of supporting evidence (37%, n = 7). Despite this, normal saline instillation continues to be widely practised in intubated patients in intensive care units in New Zealand.