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Med Clin North Am. 1997 May;81(3):585-609.

Hyponatremia and hypernatremia.

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  • 1Renal Section, VA Pittsburgh Health Care System, Pennsylvania, USA.


Hyponatremia and hypernatremia are common electrolyte disorders resulting from disorders in water homeostasis. Hyponatremia usually results from defects in free water excretion, although increased intake may also contribute. The treatment of hyponatremia has been controversial because of the high associated morbidity and mortality and the observation that rapid correction of hyponatremia is associated with the development of central pontine myelinolysis. Mild hyponatremia should be treated with water restriction alone, whereas severe acute or symptomatic hyponatremia should initially be corrected rapidly until symptoms resolve followed by more gradual correction. In all cases, treatment should be individualized on the basis of severity, cause, and duration of the hyponatremia. Hypernatremia results from impaired water ingestion, although increased water losses are often contributory. Hospital-acquired hypernatremia is usually iatrogenic because of inadequate water prescription and is therefore preventable. Hypernatremia is also associated with high morbidity and mortality, both as a result of the underlying disease and inadequate treatment. The primary treatment of hypernatremia is water replacement-repleting water deficits and replacing ongoing losses. Additional treatment should be directed at eliminating excess water losses.

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