Osmotic demyelination syndrome in end-stage renal disease after recent hemodialysis: MRI of the brain

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2004 Mar;182(3):809-16. doi: 10.2214/ajr.182.3.1820809.


Objective: Osmotic demyelination syndrome has been reported in patients with end-stage renal disease, but the specific MRI findings in this patient group have not been documented in detail. Our aims were to present the brain MRI findings during an episode after hemodialysis and at follow-up, and to identify possible factors that may contribute to lesion development.

Materials and methods: Seventeen patients with osmotic demyelination syndrome who had undergone hemodialysis at least once and had brain MRI examinations were retrospectively reviewed. Neurologic and MRI examinations were performed during a clinical episode. Serum levels of sodium, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, and glucose were assessed, and serum osmolality and the ratio of blood urea nitrogen to creatinine (BUN:Cr) were calculated. Follow-up MRI was performed in nine cases. Laboratory and imaging findings were evaluated.

Results: An altered level of consciousness and convulsions were the most common neurologic symptoms. The pons was involved in 11 patients (65%) and extrapontine sites in 12 (71%). Four patients had dysequilibrium syndrome. Follow-up MRI showed complete resolution in six patients and lesion reduction in three within a short time. The most common biochemical changes at the time of MRI were hyponatremia and low BUN:Cr in the blood. Only one patient showed rapid correction of hyponatremia and a rapid change in osmolality during the acute stage.

Conclusion: In patients who develop osmotic demyelination syndrome after hemodialysis, the lesions may involve the pons or the pons and extrapontine sites. Most lesions that were followed up resolved rapidly and almost completely, favoring transient edema rather than demyelination. Blood chemistries suggested underlying changes in osmolality, particularly as a result of urea shift from the extracellular fluid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelinolysis, Central Pontine / diagnosis*
  • Myelinolysis, Central Pontine / etiology
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndrome