New tool for assessing dehydration is built for global deployment

A study program coordinator demonstrates a stool culture to a local health worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The system can help doctors treat diarrhea in children

For adults and older children, dehydration from diarrhea is a common, pervasive threat: Annually, more than 1 million die from it.

Now, a novel software tool that makes diagnosing and treating diarrhea-related dehydration faster, simpler and more accurate has been launched by an international team that includes a University of Florida Health pediatrics researcher.

The solution is as unique as the problem is massive. Worldwide, there are 5.7 billion cases of diarrhea a year among adults and older children. Even so, there has not been a convenient, easy-to-use, evidence-based tool for assessing dehydration in patients.

Seeing a large and urgent need, researchers at UF Health, Brown University and in Bangladesh teamed up to create FluidCalc. Using an algorithm that runs through a cell phone app, FluidCalc quickly and consistently determines the extent of a patient’s dehydration and calculates how much fluid they need. The tool uses two primary algorithms for those under and over 5 years of age.

“There’s a lot less left to chance if you have an evidence-based algorithm doing this instead of trying to determine each patient’s needs,” said Eric J. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor with UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics. Nelson’s contributions included developing the software that powers FluidCalc.

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Doug Bennett February 22, 2024