To determine whether cytotoxic brain edema is associated with a decrease in diffusion, it was induced in rats, in the absence of ischemia, with an established model of acute hyponatremic encephalopathy. Cytotoxic brain edema secondary to acute hyponatremia was induced with intraperitoneal injections of 2.5% dextrose in water and subcutaneous injection of arginine-vasopressin. Coronal spin-echo magnetic resonance (MR) images were obtained with and without strong diffusion-sensitizing gradients before and after induction of acute hyponatremia. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was measured at two coronal section locations. In hyponatremic rats, the brain ADC was significantly reduced (P = .0153 and .0001) and was positively correlated with increased total brain water content (P = .0011). Plots of ADC versus total brain water showed a statistically significant inverse linear relationship between ADC and increasing brain water at the anterior coronal section location. The results indicate that the ADC may be a sensitive indicator of cytotoxic brain edema and thus may enable quantitative evaluation of such edema with diffusion-weighted MR imaging.