Central pontine myelinolysis: historical and mechanistic considerations

Metab Brain Dis. 2010 Mar;25(1):97-106. doi: 10.1007/s11011-010-9175-0. Epub 2010 Feb 25.


Central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) is a demyelinating condition affecting not only the pontine base, but also involving other brain areas. It usually occurs on a background of chronic systemic illness, and is commonly observed in individuals with alcoholism, malnutrition and liver disease. Studies carried out 25-30 years ago established that the principal etiological factor was the rapid correction of hyponatremia resulting in osmotic stress. This article reviews progress achieved since that time on its pathogenesis, focusing on the role of organic osmolytes, the blood-brain, barrier, endothelial cells, myelinotoxic factors triggered by osmotic stress, and the role of various factors that predispose to the development of CPM. These advances show great promise in providing novel therapeutic options for the management of patients afflicted with CPM.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / drug therapy
  • Hyponatremia / physiopathology
  • Iatrogenic Disease / prevention & control
  • Myelinolysis, Central Pontine / history
  • Myelinolysis, Central Pontine / pathology*
  • Myelinolysis, Central Pontine / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Osmotic Pressure / physiology
  • Pons / metabolism
  • Pons / pathology*
  • Pons / physiopathology*
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic / adverse effects
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / drug effects
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology*


  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic