What type of additives would be used to normalize tonicity? What’s in a normal IV bag?

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7. What type of additives would be used to normalize tonicity? What’s in a normal IV bag?


A normal IV bag contains a saline solution. This means that it contains water mixed with sodium chloride though sometimes it may be water mixed with dextrose. Both of these are additives used to normalize tonicity.

Tonicity is a measurement of osmotic pressure. What this means is that it measures how likely it is for water to be drawn to it and is based on the concentration of solutes. There are 3 measurements for tonicity

  1. Hypertonic
  2. Hypotonic
  3. Isotonic

These measurements tell us whether water is likely to be drawn in, repelled, or not move at all. This will depend on the concentration of solutes and water on the inside and outside of a cell. If a patient is given normal water, the water will dissolve the solutes outside of a cell and cause a pressure gradient that will cause water to be drawn into a cell until it inevitably explodes. This death of the blood cells is known as hemolysis. To avoid this, additives like Dextrose or sodium chloride are added, to equalize tonicity.

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Though dextrose is often used, the most common solution for an IV bag is the saline solution made from water and sodium chloride (salt). The addition of additives like salt or dextrose (a type of sugar) is important in order to normalize tonicity and avoid hemolysis.

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