Treatment of symptomatic hyponatremia is not well established. The European guidelines recommend bolus-wise administration of 150 mL of 3% hypertonic saline. This recommendation is, however, based on low level of evidence.
Sixty-two consecutive hyponatremic patients admitted to the emergency department or intensive care unit of the University Hospital Wuerzburg were divided in subgroups according to treatment (150 mL bolus of 3% hypertonic saline or conventional treatment) and symptom severity. Treatment target was defined as an increase in serum sodium by 5–10 mEq/L within first 24 h and maximum 8 mEq/L during subsequent 24 h.
Thirty-three out of sixty-two patients (53%) were presented with moderate symptoms and 29/62 (47%) with severe symptoms. Thirty-six were treated with hypertonic saline and 26 conventionally. In the hypertonic saline group, serum sodium increased from 116 ± 7 to 123 ± 6 (24 h) and 127 ± 6 mEq/L (48 h) and from 121 ± 6 to 126 ± 5 and 129 ± 4 mEq/L in the conventional group, respectively. Overcorrection at 24 h occurred more frequent in patients with severe symptoms than with moderate symptoms (38% vs 6%, P < 0.05). Diuresis correlated positively with the degree of sodium overcorrection at 24 h (r = 0.6, P < 0.01). Conventional therapies exposed patients to higher degrees of sodium fluctuations and an increased risk for insufficient sodium correction at 24 h compared to hypertonic saline (RR: 2.8, 95% CI: 1.4–5.5).
Sodium increase was more constant with hypertonic saline, but overcorrection rate was high, especially in severely symptomatic patients. Reducing bolus-volume and reevaluation before repeating bolus infusion might prevent overcorrection. Symptoms caused by hypovolemia can be misinterpreted as severely symptomatic hyponatremia and diuresis should be monitored.