Fluid bolus therapy (FBT) is a standard of care in the management of the septic, hypotensive, tachycardic and/or oliguric patient. However, contemporary evidence for FBT improving patient-centred outcomes is scant. Moreover, its physiological effects in contemporary ICU environments and populations are poorly understood. Using three electronic databases, we identified all studies describing FBT between January 2010 and December 2013. We found 33 studies describing 41 boluses. No randomised controlled trials compared FBT with alternative interventions, such as vasopressors. The median fluid bolus was 500 ml (range 100 to 1,000 ml) administered over 30 minutes (range 10 to 60 minutes) and the most commonly administered fluid was 0.9% sodium chloride solution. In 19 studies, a predetermined physiological trigger initiated FBT. Although 17 studies describe the temporal course of physiological changes after FBT in 31 patient groups, only three studies describe the physiological changes at 60 minutes, and only one study beyond this point. No studies related the physiological changes after FBT with clinically relevant outcomes. There is a clear need for at least obtaining randomised controlled evidence for the physiological effects of FBT in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock beyond the period immediately after its administration.