Purpose of review: Hypertonic saline solutions have received renewed attention as effective agents for the treatment of cerebral edema and in brain resuscitation in a variety of brain injury paradigms. Although evidence of the beneficial action of hypertonic saline solutions in traumatic brain injury is robust, data supporting use in other conditions are only now mounting.
Recent findings: Osmotic properties of hypertonic saline solutions have been well studied in laboratory-based studies in animal models and in patients with acute brain injury. There are, in addition, emerging data on the extraosmotic actions on brain pathophysiology. This review cites baseline literature and provides new evidence of actions of hypertonic saline solutions: (a). in augmenting cerebral blood flow after subarachnoid hemorrhage, (b). as an antiinflammatory adjunct, and (c). utility in chemonucleolysis for intervertebral disc disease and treatment of seizures associated with severe hyponatremia.
Summary: Brain injury from diverse etiologies including trauma, ischemic stroke, global cerebral ischemia from cardiac arrest, intraparenchymal or subarachnoid hemorrhage, infection, or toxic-metabolic derangements are commonly encountered in the clinical setting. Many of these conditions are associated with cerebral edema with or without elevated intracranial pressure. Osmotherapy constitutes the cornerstone of medical therapy for such patients. Hypertonic saline solutions have received renewed attention in clinical practice as osmotic agents for cerebral resuscitation. This article reviews experimental and clinical evidence of the efficacy of hypertonic saline solutions and elaborates on their use in patients with acute neurologic injury. Important areas for current and future research are highlighted before the use of hypertonic saline solutions can be accepted for widespread use.