Hypertonic saline and desmopressin: a simple strategy for safe correction of severe hyponatremia

Am J Kidney Dis. 2013 Apr;61(4):571-8. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.11.032. Epub 2012 Dec 23.


Background: Prompt correction of severe hyponatremia is important, but correction also must be limited to avoid iatrogenic osmotic demyelination. Expert opinion recommends that serum sodium level not be increased by more than 10-12 mEq/L in any 24-hour period and/or 18 mEq/L in any 48-hour period. However, inadvertent overcorrection is common, usually caused by the unexpected emergence of a water diuresis.

Study design: Quality improvement report.

Setting & participants: All 25 patients admitted to a community teaching hospital between October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2011, who were treated for serum sodium level <120 mEq/L with concurrently administered desmopressin and hypertonic saline solution.

Quality improvement plan: Concurrently administered desmopressin (1-2 µg parenterally every 6-8 hours) and hypertonic saline with weight-based doses adjusted to increase the serum sodium concentration by 6 mEq/L, avoiding inadvertent overcorrection of severe hyponatremia.

Outcomes: Rate of correction of hyponatremia, predictability of response to the combination, adverse events related to therapy.

Measurements: Rate of correction of hyponatremia at 4, 24, and 48 hours; administered dose of 3% saline solution, salt tablets, and potassium; predicted increase in serum sodium level.

Results: Mean changes in serum sodium levels during the first and second 24 hours of therapy were 5.8 ± 2.8 (SD) and 4.5 ± 2.2 mEq/L, respectively, without correction by >12 mEq/L in 24 hours or >18 mEq/L in 48 hours and without a decrease during therapy. There was no significant difference between actual and predicted increases during the first 24 hours. There was no adverse effect associated with therapy.

Limitations: Without concurrent controls, we cannot be certain that outcomes are improved. Balance studies were not performed.

Conclusions: Combined 3% saline solution and desmopressin appears to be a valid strategy for correcting severe hyponatremia, but studies comparing the regimen with other therapeutic strategies are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / administration & dosage
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / therapy*
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic / administration & dosage*


  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin