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Class: Alkalinizing Agents
VA Class: TN900
CAS Number: 77-86-1
Brands: Tham

Medically reviewed on Apr 13, 2017


Alkalinizing agent.a 100

Uses for Tromethamine


Prevention and correction of metabolic acidosis associated with cardiac bypass surgery.a 100

Adjustment of excess acidity of stored blood (blood preserved with anticoagulant citrate dextrose [ACD] solution) used to prime pump-oxygenator during cardiac bypass surgery.a 100

Also has been used as an alkalinizing agent in cardiac arrest;100 however, only limited data to support such use.401

Restoration of oxygen content with appropriate ventilation with oxygen, support of some tissue perfusion and cardiac output with good chest compressions, and then rapid return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) are mainstays of restoring acid-base balance during cardiac arrest.401

Non-carbon dioxide generating buffers (e.g., tromethamine) may minimize some adverse effects of sodium bicarbonate (e.g., carbon dioxide generation, hyperosmolarity, hypernatremia, hypoglycemia, intracellular acidosis, myocardial acidosis, overshoot alkalosis) in certain resuscitation situations; however, clinical experience is limited.401

May be preferable to sodium bicarbonate in treatment of severe metabolic acidosis in patients in whom sodium or carbon dioxide elimination is restricted.a

May not be preferable to sodium bicarbonate in treatment of patients intoxicated with salicylates, barbiturates, or other weak acids.a

Has been used in the treatment of metabolic acidosis associated with status asthmaticus and neonatal respiratory distress syndrome.a

Maintain ventilation by artificial means if respiratory acidosis accompanies metabolic acidosis; not recommended in patients with respiratory acidosis alone, since the drug may depress ventilation by decreasing carbon dioxide tension.a

Tromethamine Dosage and Administration


Administer by slow IV infusion, by addition to the pump-oxygenator ACD blood or other priming fluid, or by injection into the ventricular cavity during cardiac arrest.a 100

Do not administer for >1 day, except in life-threatening situations.a 100

May be used along with standard resuscitative measures.100 a

Containers are for single use only.100

Commercially available tromethamine (Tham) is a 0.3 M solution of the drug.a Do not extemporaneously prepare solutions in a concentration >0.3 M.a

IV Administration

Infuse the drug slowly via a large needle into the largest antecubital vein or via an indwelling catheter placed in a large vein of an elevated limb.a 100 IV catheters are recommended.a 100

Rate of Administration

Administer slowly.100


Dosage depends on severity and progression of acidosis.a 100

Carefully supervise dosage and rate of administration to avoid overtreatment (alkalosis).100 Determine blood pH, arterial oxygen pressure (PaO2), carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2), bicarbonate, glucose and electrolyte concentrations, and urinary output before, during, and following administration of the drug.a 100 Monitor dosage and progress of treatment, as needed.a 100

Consider the possibility of some accumulation of drug, especially in patients with impaired renal function.100

Dosage is the least amount of a 0.3 M solution that is required to increase blood pH to within normal limits (7.35–7.45) and correct acid-base derangements.a 100

Dosage calculations are based on base deficit as determined by means of the Siggaard-Andersen nomogram.a 100 Calculate dosage of tromethamine in metabolic acidosis using the following empiric formula as a guide:

mL of 0.3 M tromethamine solution = body weight (in kg) × base deficit (in mEq/L) × 1.1a 100 (Factor of 1.1 accounts for an approximate reduction of 10% in buffering capacity due to presence of sufficient acetic acid to lower pH of 0.3 M solution to approximately 8.6.)a 100

Thus, total dose of tromethamine solution for a 70-kg adult having a base deficit of 5 mEq/L is 385 mL of 0.3 M solution (approximately 13.9 g of tromethamine).a 100 Need for additional doses is determined by serial measurements of existing base deficit.100

Pediatric Patients

Metabolic Acidosis Associated with Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Neonates and Infants: Initial dose based on initial pH and weight of child at birth.100 Usually, initial dose is about 1 mL per kg for each pH unit below 7.4.100 Additional doses may be given according to changes in PaO2, blood pH, and PaCO2.100


Metabolic Acidosis Associated with Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Total single dose of a 0.3 M solution for most adults is 500 mL.a 100 A single dose of up to 1000 mL may be necessary in unusually severe cases.a 100 Do not administer individual doses >500 mg/kg per hour (about 1078 mL of 0.3 M solution per hour for a 70-kg adult).a 100 103

Acidity of ACD Blood in Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Usually, add 15–77 mL of a 0.3 M solution to each 500 mL of ACD blood, depending on the pH of the blood.a 100 Clinical experience indicates that 62 mL of a 0.3 M solution added to 500 mL of ACD blood usually is adequate.a 100

Metabolic Acidosis Associated with Cardiac Arrest

If chest is not open, administer 111–333 mL of a 0.3 M solution into a large peripheral vein.a 100 Additional tromethamine may be required to control acidosis that persists after resuscitation.a 100


If chest is open, 62–185 mL of a 0.3 M solution has been injected into the ventricular cavity (not into the cardiac muscle).a 100

Prescribing Limits

Pediatric Patients

Do not administer for >1 day, except in life-threatening situations.a 100 103


Do not administer for >1 day, except in life-threatening situations.a 100 103

Metabolic Acidosis Associated with Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Maximum (individual dose) 500 mg/kg per hour.a 100 103

Special Populations

Renal Impairment

Use with caution.100 (See Renal and Electrolyte Effects under Cautions.)

Geriatric Patients

Select dosage with caution, usually initiating therapy at the low end of the dosing range, because of age-related decreases in hepatic, renal, and/or cardiac function and concomitant disease and drug therapy.100 (See Geriatric Use under Cautions.)

Cautions for Tromethamine


Anuria or uremia.100 a

Neonates with chronic respiratory acidosis and salicylate intoxication.a 100



If an adverse effect occurs, discontinue infusion, evaluate patient, institute appropriate therapeutic countermeasures, and save remainder of fluid for examination (if deemed necessary).100

Respiratory Effects

Possible respiratory depression, as a result of increased blood pH and reduced carbon dioxide concentrations associated with administration of large doses of tromethamine;100 also in those with chronic hypoventilation or in those receiving other drugs that depress respiration.a

Carefully adjust dosage so that blood pH does not increase above normal; have facilities readily available to provide mechanical ventilation during administration of tromethamine.a 100 May be used with mechanical ventilatory support if respiratory acidosis is present concomitantly with metabolic acidosis.100

Local Effects

Possible local irritation and tissue inflammation or infection at the site of injection, febrile response, chemical phlebitis, venospasm, hypervolemia, and IV thrombosis.a 100

Administer slowly through a large needle or indwelling catheter to minimize venous irritation.a 100 Use with caution to prevent perivascular infiltration, since extravasation may result in inflammation, necrosis, and sloughing of overlying skin.a 100

If perivascular infiltration occurs, discontinue tromethamine immediately and initiate appropriate countermeasures.a 100 Infiltration of the affected area with 1% procaine hydrochloride (to which hyaluronidase has been added) will often reduce venospasm and also will dilute any tromethamine remaining locally in tissues.a Local infiltration of an α-adrenergic blocking agent (e.g., phentolamine mesylate) into the vasospastic area has been recommended.a Perform nerve block of autonomic fibers to the affected area, if necessary.a

Metabolic Effects

Possible transient decreases in blood glucose concentration.a 100 When larger than recommended doses are used or when administration is too rapid, hypoglycemia may persist for several hours.a 100

Administer tromethamine slowly and in amounts sufficient only to correct the existing acidosis; avoid overdosage and alkalosis.100

Frequently determine blood glucose concentrations during and following therapy.100

Renal and Electrolyte Effects

Possible hyperkalemia and accumulation of tromethamine in patients with renal disease or reduced urinary output; use with extreme caution, monitor ECG, and frequently determine serum potassium concentrations.a 100

Possible hydropic degeneration of renal tubular cells in adults who received hypertonic solution (1.5 M) of tromethamine.a

Fluid and/or Solute Overload

Possible fluid and/or solute overload following IV administration resulting in dilution of serum electrolyte concentrations, overhydration, congested conditions, or pulmonary edema.100

Duration of Administration

Do not administer for >1 day, except in life-threatening situations.a 100 Clinical experience generally limited to short-term use.100

General Precautions

Laboratory Monitoring

Determine blood pH, PaCO2, and bicarbonate, glucose, and electrolyte concentrations before, during, and following administration of tromethamine.a 100

Hematologic Effects

Possible increased blood coagulation time.a 100

Hepatic Effects

Hemorrhagic necrosis of the liver reported in seriously ill neonates who received hypertonic (1.2 M) preparations of tromethamine via the umbilical vein.a

Hydropic degeneration of hepatic cells reported in adults who received hypertonic solution (1.5 M) of tromethamine.a

Specific Populations


Category C.100


Not known whether distributed into human milk.100 Use with caution.100

Pediatric Use

Safety and efficacy based on extensive (over 30 years) clinical experience documented in medical literature and by safety surveillance.a 100

May be used in the treatment of severe cases of metabolic acidosis with concurrent respiratory acidosis in neonates and infants with respiratory failure, because unlike sodium bicarbonate, tromethamine does not elevate PaCO2.a 100

Also may be used in neonates and infants with hypernatremia and metabolic acidosis to avoid the additional sodium given with the bicarbonate.a 100

Because osmotic effects of tromethamine are greater and large continuous doses of the drug are required, sodium bicarbonate is preferred to tromethamine in the treatment of acidosis in neonates and infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).a 100

Possible occurrences of hepatocellular necrosis associated with IV infusions of tromethamine via low-lying umbilical venous catheters.a 100

Hypoglycemia may occur in premature and even in full-term neonates.a 100

Contraindicated in neonates with chronic respiratory acidosis and salicylate intoxication.100

Geriatric Use

Insufficient experience in patients ≥65 years of age to determine whether geriatric patients respond differently than younger patients.100 Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in response between geriatric patients and younger adults.100

Select dosage with caution because of age-related decreases in hepatic, renal, and/or cardiac function and concomitant disease and drug therapy.100 (See Geriatric Patients under Dosage and Administration.)

Substantially eliminated by kidneys; risk of toxic reactions may be greater in patients with impaired renal function.100 Monitor renal function and adjust dosage accordingly since geriatric patients are more likely to have decreased renal function.100

Renal Impairment

Substantially eliminated by kidneys; risk of toxic reactions may be greater in patients with impaired renal function.100 (See Renal and Electrolyte Effects under Cautions.)

Common Adverse Effects

Adverse effects may include respiratory depression, local irritation, tissue inflammation, injection site infection, febrile response, chemical phlebitis, venospasm, hypervolemia, IV thrombosis, extravasation (with possible necrosis and sloughing of tissues), transient decreases in blood glucose concentrations, hypoglycemia, and hepatocellular necrosis with infusion via low-lying umbilical venous catheters.100 (See Warnings under Cautions.)

Interactions for Tromethamine

No formal drug interaction studies performed to date.100

Tromethamine Pharmacokinetics



Not known whether distributed into human milk.100



Not appreciably metabolized.a

Elimination Route

Excreted principally in urine (rate depends on infusion rate).a 100 Urinary excretion continues over a period of 3 days; 75% or more appears in the urine after 8 hours.100





20–25°C; do not freeze.100 Discard unused portions.100


  • Organic amine buffer; proton (hydrogen ion) acceptor.a 100

  • Weak base.a Prevents or corrects acidosis by actively binding with hydrogen ions and their associated acid anions; the resulting salts are excreted in urine.a 100

  • Combines with lactic, pyruvic, and other metabolic acids and with carbonic acid.a 100

  • Approximately 70% of tromethamine present in plasma at pH 7.4 is in ionized (protonated) form; if pH is decreased from pH 7.4, ionized fraction of drug is increased.a 100 Ionized fraction of tromethamine reacts only with acid in extracellular fluids; fraction of drug that remains un-ionized at physiologic pH may be capable of penetrating cell membrane to combine with intracellular acid.a 100

  • Does not appear to affect ventilatory rate; may reduce tidal volume leading to a decrease in minute ventilation and carbon dioxide output; may decrease arterial oxygen saturation by about 5%.a

  • Weak osmotic diuretic; increases flow of alkaline urine containing increased amounts of electrolytes.a 100

Advice to Patients

  • Importance of informing clinicians of existing or contemplated concomitant therapy, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as any concomitant illnesses.100

  • Importance of women informing clinicians if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed.100

  • Importance of informing patients of other important precautionary information.100 (See Cautions.)


Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.

Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.



Dosage Forms


Brand Names




36 mg/mL (18 g)



AHFS DI Essentials™. © Copyright 2019, Selected Revisions April 13, 2017. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 4500 East-West Highway, Suite 900, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.

† Use is not currently included in the labeling approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.


100. Hospira, Inc. Tham Solution (tromethamine) injection prescribing information. Lake Forest, IL; 2005 Oct.

103. Cherk E (Hospira, Inc., Lake Forest, IL): Personal communication; 2007 Mar 20.

401. Neumar RW, Otto CW, Link MS et al. Part 8: adult advanced cardiovascular life support: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2010; 122(18 Suppl 3):S729-67.

a. AHFS Drug Information 2017. McEvoy GK, ed. Tromethamine. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2017.