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Hyponatremia: Clinical Diagnosis and Management

      Abstract

      Hyponatremia is a common clinical problem in hospitalized patients and nursing home residents. It also may occur in healthy athletes after endurance exercise. The majority of patients with hyponatremia are asymptomatic and do not require immediate correction of hyponatremia. Symptomatic hyponatremia is a medical emergency requiring rapid correction to prevent the worsening of brain edema. How fast we should increase the serum sodium levels depends on the onset of hyponatremia and still remains controversial. If the serum sodium levels are corrected too rapidly, patients may develop central pontine myelinolysis, but if they are corrected too slowly, patients may die of brain herniation. We review the epidemiology and mechanisms of hyponatremia, the sensitivity of women to hyponatremic injury, the adaptation and maladaptation of brain cells to hyponatremia and its correction, and the practical ways of managing hyponatremia. Because the majority of hyponatremia is caused by the non-osmotic release of vasopressin, the recent approval of the vasopressin receptor antagonist conivaptan for euvolemic hyponatremia may simplify hyponatremia management. However, physicians should be aware of the risk of rapid correction of hyponatremia, hypotension, and excessive fluid intake.

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