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Disorders of water and sodium homeostasis 

Disorders of water and sodium homeostasis
Disorders of water and sodium homeostasis

Michael L. Moritz

, and Juan Carlos Ayus

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date: 05 March 2021

Water intake and the excretion of water are tightly regulated processes that are able to maintain a near-constant serum osmolality. Sodium disorders (dysnatraemias—hyponatraemia or hypernatraemia) are almost always due to an imbalance between water intake and water excretion. Understanding the aetiology of sodium disorders depends on understanding the concept of electrolyte-free water clearance—this is a conceptual amount of water that represents the volume that would need to be subtracted (if electrolyte-free water clearance is positive) or added (if negative) to the measured urinary volume to make the electrolytes contained within the urine have the same tonicity as the plasma electrolytes. It is the concentration of the electrolytes in the urine, not the osmolality of the urine, which ultimately determines the net excretion of water. Hyponatraemia (serum sodium concentration <135 mmol/litre) is a common electrolyte disorder. It is almost invariably due to impaired water excretion, often in states where antidiuretic hormone release is (1) a normal response to a physiological stimulus such as pain, nausea, volume depletion, postoperative state, or congestive heart failure; or (2) a pathophysiological response as occurs with thiazide diuretics, other types of medications, or in the syndrome of inappropriate diuresis; with both often exacerbated in hospital by (3) inappropriate iatrogenic administration of hypotonic fluids. Hypernatraemia (serum sodium concentration >145 mmol/litre) is a common electrolyte disorder that occurs when water intake is inadequate to keep up with water losses. Since the thirst mechanism is such a powerful stimulus, hypernatraemia almost invariably occurs in the context of an illness and care that restricts the patient’s access to water. This chapter discusses the clinical features, management, and prevention of hyponatraemia and hypernatraemia.

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