Cell volume regulation: a review of cerebral adaptive mechanisms and implications for clinical treatment of osmolal disturbances: II

Pediatr Nephrol. 1992 Jan;6(1):104-12. doi: 10.1007/BF00856852.


Cerebral cell volume regulatory mechanisms are activated by sustained disturbances in plasma osmolality. Acute hypernatremia causes a predictable shrinkage of brain cells due to the sudden imposition of a plasma-to-cell osmolal gradient. However, during chronic hypernatremia cerebral cell volume is maintained close to the normal range as a result of the accumulation of electrolytes and organic osmolytes including myo-inositol, taurine, glutamine, glycerophosphorylcholine, and betaine. The increased cytosolic level of these molecules is generally accomplished via increased activity of sodium (Na+)-dependent cotransport systems. The slow dissipation of these additional osmotically active solutes from the cell during treatment of hypernatremia necessitates gradual correction of this electrolyte abnormality. Acute hyponatremia leads to cerebral cell swelling and severe neurological dysfunction. However, prolonged hyponatremia is associated with significant reductions in brain cell electrolyte and organic osmolyte content so that cerebral cell volume is restored to normal. While acute hyponatremia can be treated with the administration of moderate doses of hypertonic saline in order to control seizure activity, chronic hyponatremia should be corrected slowly in order to prevent subsequent neurological deterioration. If the rate of correction exceeds 0.5 mmol/l per hour, or if the total increment in serum [Na+] exceeds 25 mmol/l in the first 48 h of therapy, then there is an increased risk of the development of cerebral demyelinating lesions. Chronic hyperglycemia activates the brain cell volume regulatory adaptations in the same manner as hypernatremia. Therefore, during the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, it is imperative to restore normoglycemia gradually in order to prevent the occurrence of cerebral edema.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology
  • Hypernatremia / physiopathology
  • Hyponatremia / physiopathology
  • Kidney / physiology
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Uremia / physiopathology
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / physiopathology*