Background: Hyponatremia is a disorder of fluid and electrolyte balance characterized by a relative excess of body water relative to body sodium content. It is the most common electrolyte disorder encountered in clinical medicine and is associated with negative outcomes in many chronic diseases. However, there is limited information in the literature about health care resource use and costs attributable to the effects of the condition. The purpose of this analysis was to estimate the annual cost of illness of hyponatremia in the United States.
Methods: The study utilized a prevalence-based cost of illness framework that incorporated data from publicly available databases, published literature and a consensus panel of expert physicians. Panel members provided information on: classification of hyponatremia patients, treatment settings for hyponatremia (i.e., hospital, emergency room, doctor's office), and health care resource use associated with the diagnosis and treatment of hyponatremia. Low and high prevalence scenarios were estimated and utilized in a spreadsheet-based cost of illness model. Costs were assigned to units of resources and summarized across treatment settings.
Results: The prevalence estimate for hyponatremia ranged from 3.2 million to 6.1 million persons in the U.S. on an annual basis. Approximately 1% of patients were classified as having acute and symptomatic hyponatremia, 4% acute and asymptomatic, 15%-20% chronic and symptomatic, and 75-80% chronic and asymptomatic. Of patients treated for hyponatremia, 55%-63% are initially treated as inpatients, 25% are initially treated in the emergency room, and 13%-20% are treated solely in the office setting. The direct costs of treating hyponatremia in the U.S. on an annual basis were estimated to range between $1.6 billion and $3.6 billion.
Conclusion: Treatment of hyponatremia represents a significant healthcare burden in the U.S. Newer therapies that may reduce the burden of hyponatremia in the inpatient setting could minimize the costs associated with this condition.