The MastAttack 107: The Layperson’s Guide to Mast Cell Diseases, Part 12

I have answered the 107 questions I have been asked most in the last four years. No jargon. No terminology. Just answers.

20. Why do a lot of mast cell patients get intravenous (IV) fluids?
• Use of IV fluids is becoming increasingly common for mast cell patients as word spreads that it helps with fatigue, overall energy, and general reactivity.
There have not been any studies showing that IV fluids work directly for mast cell disease. However, there have been papers demonstrating that it helps with deconditioning (when your body is out of shape from being sick), POTS (which a lot of mast cell patients have), and other chronic illnesses.
• A lot of chemicals that mast cells release can cause some of the liquid in your bloodstream to fall out through the walls of the bloodstream and become trapped in the tissues there. This phenomenon is called third spacing.
• The term “third spacing” is derived from the idea that fluids like blood or other fluids can be in one of three “spaces” in the body. One space is inside the cells, where cells can use it. Another space is right outside the cells, where cells can still use it. When fluids are stuck in a place that can’t be used by cells, and therefore is not useful to the body, it is said to be in a third space. So third spacing is when the fluids your body needs is stuck in the wrong place.
Third spacing is the cause of most types of swelling and edema.
• When you have fluid that should be in your bloodstream stuck in a third space, you are functionally dehydrated. This is important because bloodwork may not always show that you are truly dehydrated when you have a lower amount of third spacing but you will still have a lot of the symptoms of it.
IV fluids puts more fluids back into the blood to compensate for the fluids that get sucked out of the bloodstream and aren’t useful to the body. When this fluid is replaced, it helps stabilize blood pressure and heart rate. It also takes stress off many other cells so they calm down too, calming down mast cells.

For more detailed reading, please visit this post:

Third spacing

I also wrote a seven part series on third spacing and IV fluids. The first post is here.

 

Do all mast cell patients need central lines? No. But some do.

A newer patient asked a couple of days if everyone with mast cell disease needs a PICC line, Broviac/Hickman or port for IV access. The answer is no, but I think we should talk about this a bit.

Central lines are usually given for people who need chemo or long term IV treatmet. These lines are not really designed to be left in your body forever, even ports. They generally are pulled once treatment is done, although ports can be left in for years as long as they are flushed monthly.

In my experience, mast cell patients get central lines for a few reasons:

  1. They have very poor IV access, so poor that it could delay treatment in an emergency (anaphylaxis).
  2. They get regular IV medications (this is not very common, although it’s hard to tell in this group).
  3. They regularly take IV medication that can damage veins if given frequently in peripheral veins (like Benadryl).
  4. They get them for IV hydration (it is not recommended to get a central line just for IV hydration, however some people do get them).

In the groups, it seems like there are so many patients who have these lines. Please keep in mind that those with more disabling disease are the most likely to be present in those forums. This group often also has other diagnoses for which central lines may be beneficial. On the other hand, the other group that is quite visible is the rookies. So the new patients see this very severe face on a disease which is quite manageable for many. You are seeing a subset of the population. Central lines in the mast cell community are not as common as it seems.

Regarding IV hydration, there are a few reasons why people receive this. Some of us vomit frequently and so fluids are difficult to get into us orally. Some of us have POTS or dysautonomia and have low blood volume, so the IV hydration stabilizes our blood pressure and heart rate. Some of us third space badly, and oral fluids end up in the wrong place.

This patient asked if they could just drink fluids. The answer is absolutely yes. If you can keep oral fluids down and are functioning, then I would do that. Receiving regular IV fluids can help with some symptoms, but there is no reason they need to be delivered through a central line. I used to get IV fluids at the infusion center with a new IV everytime. It is a pain but it’s not awful.

In an acute situation, IV fluids can be very helpful to mast cell patients. Long term, you need to be monitored properly as it can affect your electrolytes and for some this may raise kidney concerns. I would not get IV fluids based simply upon “feeling dehydrated”. If you “feel dehydrated” and also your blood pressure is wacky and you can’t keep down oral fluids, I think that then regular IV hydration might be useful.

I know it is frustrating to feel that you are not doing as well as you used to, but if you have mast cell disease, it is very possible you never will again, even with IV fluids. I am sorry, but that is the reality. You need to adapt to the level of ability you can manage currently.  Get some stability and things will improve.

If you and your doctor feel that IV hydration is appropriate, I would try it outpatient for a few weeks. If they then feel you need to do it at home, placing a PICC line is a good place to start. If you have a problem with the PICC line, it can be pulled without much trouble. The other lines are implanted and require surgery to remove them. The risk of bloodstream infections from central lines is real and these are very serious situations with long term effects.

Mast cell patients also run the risk of reacting to the materials used to make the line. They can also react to the maintenance of the line, such as flushing, use of heparin and alcohol swabs. This is a real problem for some people. So any time you can avoid an indwelling line long term, that is the better option.

Lastly, central lines require maintenance so you need to be sure that if your doctor wants to order one, they will also order the solutions and nursing care needed to keep you safe.