Introduction: Hyponatremia in the intensive care unit (ICU) is most commonly related to inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). Fluid restriction is difficult to apply in these patients. We wanted to report the treatment of hyponatremia with urea in these patients.
Methods: Two groups of patients are reported. The first one is represented by a retrospective study of 50 consecutive patients with mild hyponatremia treated with urea. The second group is presented by a series of 35 consecutive patients with severe hyponatremia acquired outside the hospital (≤ 115 mEq/L) who where treated by isotonic saline and urea (0.5 to 1 g/kg/day), administered usually by gastric tube.
Results: In the first group with mild hyponatremia (128 ± 4 mEq/L) the serum sodium (SNa) increased to a mean value of 135 ± 4 mEq/L (P < 0.001) after two days of urea therapy (46 ± 25 g/day), despite a large fluid intake (> 2 L/day). The mean duration of urea therapy was six days (from 2 to 42 days). Six patients developed hyponatremia again once the urea was stopped, which necessitated its reintroduction. Six patients developed hypernatremia (maximum value 155 mEq/L). In the second group, SNa increased from 111 ± 3 mEq/L to 122 ± 4 mEq/L in one day (P < 0.001). All the patients with neurological symptoms made a rapid recovery. No side effects were observed.
Conclusions: These data show that urea is a simple and inexpensive therapy to treat euvolemic hyponatremia in the ICU.