The challenge of hyponatremia

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2012 Jul;23(7):1140-8. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2012020128. Epub 2012 May 24.


Treatment of hypotonic hyponatremia often challenges clinicians on many counts. Despite similar serum sodium concentrations, clinical manifestations can range from mild to life threatening. Some patients require active management, whereas others recover without intervention. Therapeutic measures frequently yield safe correction, yet the same measures can result in osmotic demyelination. To address this challenge, we present a practical approach to managing hyponatremia that centers on two elements: a diagnostic evaluation directed at the pathogenesis and putative causes of hyponatremia, the case-specific clinical and laboratory features, and the associated clinical risk; and a management plan tailored to the diagnostic findings that incorporates quantitative projections of fluid therapy and fluid losses on the patient's serum sodium, balances potential benefits and risks, and emphasizes vigilant monitoring. These principles should enable the clinician to formulate a management plan that addresses expeditiously three critical questions: Which of the determinants of the serum sodium are deranged and what is the underlying culprit? How urgent is the need for intervention? What specific therapy should be instituted and which are the associated pitfalls?

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / blood
  • Hyponatremia / epidemiology
  • Hyponatremia / therapy*
  • Models, Biological
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium / blood


  • Sodium