Hyponatremia after cranial vault remodeling has been noted in a pediatric patient population. If left untreated, the patients may develop a clinical hypoosmotic condition that can lead to cerebral edema, increased intracranial pressure, and eventually, to central nervous system and circulatory compromise. The hyponatremia has traditionally been attributed to the syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH); however, in our patients the treatment has been resuscitation with normal saline as opposed to fluid restriction (the accepted treatment of SIADH), thus placing the diagnosis of SIADH in question. Patients who developed hyponatremia after intracranial injury or surgery were, until recently, grouped together as having SIADH. However, there are diagnosis and treatment differences between SIADH and another distinct but poorly understood disorder that is designated cerebral salt wasting syndrome (CSW). CSW is associated with increased urine output and increased urine sodium concentration and volume contraction, and it is frequently seen after a central nervous system trauma. We therefore developed a prospective study to evaluate the cause of the sodium imbalance.Ten consecutive pediatric patients who underwent intracranial surgery for various craniosynostotic disorders were postoperatively monitored in the pediatric intensive care unit for hemodynamic, respiratory, and fluid management. The first four patients were evaluated for electrolyte changes and overall fluid balance to determine the consistency with which these changes occurred. The remaining six patients had daily (including preoperative) measurement of serum electrolytes, urine electrolytes, urine osmolarity, serum antidiuretic hormone (ADH), aldosterone, and atrial natriuretic hormone (ANH). All patients received normal saline intravenous replacement fluid in the postoperative period. All of the patients developed a transient hyponatremia postoperatively, despite normal saline resuscitation. Serum sodium levels as low as 128 to 133 mEq per liter (normal, 137 to 145 mEq per liter) were documented in the patients. All patients had increased urine outputs through the fourth postoperative day (>1 cc/kg/h). The six patients who were measured had an increased ANH level, with a peak value as high as 277 pg/ml (normal, 25 to 77 pg/ml). ADH levels were low or normal in all but one patient, who had a marked increase in ADH and ANH. Aldosterone levels were variable. On the basis of these results, all but one patient showed evidence of CSW characterized by increased urine output, normal or increased urine sodium, low serum sodium, and increased ANH levels. The other patient had similar clinical findings consistent with CSW but also had an increase in ADH, thus giving a mixed laboratory picture of SIADH and CSW. The association of CSW to cranial vault remodeling has previously been ignored. This study should prompt reevaluation of the broad grouping of SIADH as the cause of all hyponatremic episodes in our postoperative patient population. An etiologic role has been given to ANH and to other, as yet undiscovered, central nervous system natriuretic factors. All of the patients studied required normal saline resuscitation, a treatment approach that is contrary to the usual management of SIADH. These findings should dictate a change in the postoperative care for these patients. After cranial vault remodeling, patients should prophylactically receive normal saline, rather than a more hypotonic solution, to avoid sodium balance problems.