I swear this is hypothetical...
June 23, 2010 7:31 AM   Subscribe

What would happen if you put urine in a saline IV bag...?

I can't state this loudly enough, but this really is a hypothetical question. No, really.

Half awake this morning, I stated wondering about urine. It's sterile, it's mostly water and salts, and it's been brought out of your bloodstream by the kidneys (assuming my knowledge of biology is correct).

So... what would happen if you replaced someone's IV saline bag with a bag of fresh urine?

Hypothetical. Honest.

Would it make any difference if it was your urine or someone else's - assuming they hadn't taken any drugs that were being removed in the urine?
posted by twine42 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might get uremic like a person whose kidneys don't work when they go too long without dialysis?
posted by Ouisch at 7:45 AM on June 23, 2010

Urine is sterile only until it passes through the non-sterile naughty bits.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:46 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Tyler Durden was lying to you.
posted by cavalier at 7:48 AM on June 23, 2010

Also, as I understand it, your urine is essentially sterile to you -- basically, you can ingest it again without ill effects because you already have whatever is in it (kids, do not try this at home or anywhere else, for that matter). As opposed to feces, which has various intestinal stuff that should not get into other bodily systems. Again, as far as I know (and I am not any sort of health care professional), your urine is relatively safe to other people, but it can pass on conditions under the right circumstances. In short, you can drink your own urine in an emergency, but keep it outside of other people's bodies (and, in most cases, away from them in general).
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:55 AM on June 23, 2010

In addition to what GenjiandProust said, there's a difference between drinking it and putting it directly into your bloodstream.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:12 AM on June 23, 2010

Urine has in it the things that your body needs to get rid of. So putting it back into the blood stream would not be a good thing. Your kidneys would just have to re-filter it, concentrations would rise in your bloodstream, and -long term- chaos would ensue.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:33 AM on June 23, 2010

Only tangentially related but you should know about the Soldier in White from Catch-22 (novel, film, whatever -- he's an important though minor character).
posted by Rash at 8:49 AM on June 23, 2010

I'm guessing the immediate effects would be due to the resulting changes in blood ion levels and pH. Both are kept within very strict parameters by the body. Fluctuations are, in general, not at all good. The concentrations of ions (such as sodium and potassium) in the urine will depend partially on the concentration of the urine itself, which can vary quite a bit based on the amount of water you've consumed prior to micturition. Similarly, while the pH of urine is usually neutral (7), it can vary between 4.4 and 8. Then there's the matter of how much urine you're talking about mainlining—hypothetically, of course. The more that enters the body, the more it will dilute the blood and throw off ion and pH equilibrium.

Someone else will have to speak to the toxicity of urea. You could probably get away with small concentrations in the blood, though it will certainly throw off your kidney function, possibly quite a bit. Again, though, concentration will be a big variable.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2010

Presumably you'd develop symptoms of acute renal failure.

Urine is basically the waste products your kidneys have filtered out of your bloodstream. They do this because having that stuff in your bloodstream is bad for you. If you take a look at what's actually in urine, some of it's pretty nasty.

Ergo, putting it back in there is going to cause problems. As long as your kidneys are otherwise working it probably wouldn't kill you--or even cause you much in the way of serious symptoms--but the body is getting rid of that stuff of a reason.

And yes, urine is generally sterile, i.e. it contains no living organisms unless you've got an infection somewhere. But poison is sterile too, so I'm not sure that helps things much.
posted by valkyryn at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2010

Urine contains urea, creatinine and other nitrogen containing byproducts of protein metabolism. It contains potassium and sodium.

Assuming that you can inject it IV without it being contaminated in air you may want to look at its osmolarity (it varies due to varying levels of hydration). Hyperosmolar solutions can cause widespread hemolysis (breakdown of white cells) which can itself lead to very high levels of potassium in blood.

Also, all the nitrogen will alter the nitrogen balance and lead to signs of ureamia which include vomiting and loss of conciousness and death.

All in all the effect of injecting urine IV will be catastrophic. I imagine that the effects of oral ingestion will be a lot less harmful because not all the harmful substances will get absorbed.
posted by london302 at 12:23 PM on June 23, 2010

It also depends on how concentrated it is. Dark yellow, vitamin-fluorescent, or clear? In any event, it's going to fuck up your electrolytes in a major way.
posted by aquafortis at 12:23 PM on June 23, 2010

« Older Why is my Google Reader "Next" button acting...   |   Debt for bills that weren't sent (or sent to wrong... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.