Postnatal control of water and electrolyte homeostasis in pre-term and full-term infants

Acta Paediatr Scand Suppl. 1983;305:61-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1983.tb09861.x.


A review is given of the progress which has been made during the last decade within the field of renal control of water and sodium homeostasis in newborn infants of varying gestational age. Both preterm and full-term infants have a low capacity for rapid excretion of a salt load. The natriuretic response improves gradually up to the age of 15 months. The capacity to excrete a load of sodium bicarbonate is higher than to excrete a load of sodium chloride. Under basal conditions preterm infants of a gestational age below 35 weeks have a higher renal sodium excretion than full-term infants. They also appear to be unable to retain sodium when in negative balance. The capacity to concentrate the urine is low in newborn infants, the maximal osmolality being only slightly above that of plasma. The concentrating capacity increases relatively fast during the first 4-6 postnatal weeks in full-term as well as in pre-term infants but does not reach the adult level until the second year. Water loaded newborn infants are able to excrete a urine with a osmolality as low as 30-50 mOsm per kg. In full-term infants free water clearance per unit filtered water is higher than in adults. Water-loaded pre-term infants with a gestational age of more than 30 weeks also have a supernormal diluting capacity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldosterone / metabolism
  • Bicarbonates / urine
  • Gestational Age
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kidney Concentrating Ability
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism
  • Natriuresis*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Potassium / urine
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Sodium Chloride / urine
  • Vasopressins / blood
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance*


  • Bicarbonates
  • Vasopressins
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Aldosterone
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Potassium