The osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS) has been a recognized complication of the rapid correction of hyponatremia for decades. However, in recent years, a variety of other medical conditions have been associated with the development of ODS, independent of changes in serum sodium. This finding suggests that the pathogenesis of ODS may be more complex and involve the inability of brain cells to respond to rapid changes in osmolality of the interstitial (extracellular) compartment of the brain, leading to dehydration of energy-depleted cells with subsequent axonal damage that occurs in characteristic areas. Features of the syndrome include quadriparesis and neurocognitive changes in the presence of characteristic lesions found on magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. Although slow correction of hyponatremia seems to be the best way to prevent development of the syndrome, there are new data that suggest reintroduction of hyponatremia in those patients who have undergone inadvertent rapid correction of the serum sodium and corticosteroids may play a role in prevention of ODS.