Purpose: The purpose of our study was to ascertain the safety of rapidly correcting acute symptomatic hyponatremia in psychogenic water drinkers, particularly in regard to any delayed adverse neurologic sequelae.
Patients and methods: We reviewed the medical records of all known psychogenic water drinkers (34) in our hospital from 1977 to 1989. Using seizure as a marker of severity, we identified 13 patients having a total of 27 episodes associated with severe hyponatremia. We evaluated the charts of those patients in detail to assess the mode of treatment, rate of correction, and long-term neurologic outcome. None of the patients experienced respiratory arrest before treatment, which was initiated within 2 hours of seizure.
Results: For all 27 episodes, the initial serum sodium level (mean +/- SE) was 110.9 +/- 1.2 mmol/L, and the rate of correction (mean +/- SE) was 1.65 +/- 0.2 mmol/L/hour. All but one episode were corrected "rapidly" (initial correction rate of 0.7 or more mmol/L/hour) to 120 to 130 mmol/L within 12 hours. The absolute change in the serum sodium level was 15.1 +/- 1.2 mmol/L in 12 hours, 21.6 +/- 1.4 mmol/L in 24 hours, and 25.9 +/- 1.4 mmol/L in 48 hours. In no instance did therapy induce hypernatremia. All patients recovered immediately after treatment. There was no clinical or radiologic evidence of adverse neurologic sequelae immediately after treatment or after 6 years of follow-up.
Conclusion: In this series of male psychogenic water drinkers, early "rapid" correction of acute symptomatic hyponatremia by raising the serum sodium level 15 mmol/L in 12 hours while maintaining an absolute change in the serum sodium level of 26 mmol/L within 48 hours produced no long-term neurologic sequelae.