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Problem solving in clinical practice: the sick infant with low sodium and high potassium
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    Be careful how quickly you correct hyponatraemia
    • Graham C Smith, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist University Hospital of Wales
    • Other Contributors:
      • Susanna Maderazo, Senior Clinical Fellow in Paediatrics

    Dear Sir,

    We read with interest the problem solving article by Tse et al. looking at the management of infants presenting with hyponatraemia plus hyperkalaemia1. They recommend the administration of intravenous 0.9% NaCl to correct hyponatraemia until oral feeds can be given. We are concerned that this protocol will produce a rise in serum [Na+] faster than recommended. The guidance is that once any acute symptoms have been addressed the rise in serum [Na+] should not exceed 8 mmol/L/day in order to minimise the risk of developing Osmotic Demyelination Syndrome (ODS). Certainly the rise should be less than 10-12 mmol/L in any 24-hour period or 18 mmol/L in any 48-hour period2.

    No specific comment is made about the speed of correction of the serum sodium concentration in case 1 other than that there was "gradual resolution of both the hyponatraemia and hypokalaemia". However in case 2 the serum sodium concentration is said to have normalised within 48 hours. The starting sodium concentration was 108 mmol/L and the normal quoted as 133-146 mmol/L so the minimum rate of rise was 12.5 mmol/L/day, exceeding the recommended rate of rise.

    As illustrated by the two cases, these patients usually present with extracellular fluid (ECF) contraction and require replacement of the ECF volume deficit. This should be with a fluid that matches the electrolyte composition of the ECF but we tend to only cater for a normal ECF [Na+] and use 0.9% NaCl. However i...

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