Management of hyponatremic seizures in children with hypertonic saline: A safe and effective strategy

A. P. Sarnaik, K. Meert, R. Hackbarth, L. Fleischmann

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Objective: To study efficacy and safety of hypertonic saline administration in the management of hyponatremic seizures. Design: Retrospective, observational, cross-sectional study with factorial design. Setting: In-patient population in a university hospital. Patients: All children admitted with serum sodium concentrations <125 mmol/L. Sixty-nine episodes of severe hyponatremia in 60 children were reviewed. Forty-one of these children presented with seizures. Interventions: Twenty-five of 41 seizure patients received an iv bolus of 4 to 6 mL/kg body weight of 3% saline. Twenty-eight patients were treated with a benzodiazepine and/or phenobarbital with or without the subsequent administration of hypertonic saline. Measurements and Main Results: Thirteen treatment failures and ten instances of apnea occurred among the 28 patients treated with benzodiazepine/phenobarbital. Administration of hypertonic saline resulted in resolution of seizures and apnea in all cases. Those patients receiving 3% saline had a higher serum sodium increase rate from 0 to 4 hrs than the remaining patients (3.1 ± 1.3 vs. 1.7 ± 1.2 mmol/L·hr, p < .01). None developed subsequent neurologic deterioration or clinical manifestations of osmotic demyelination syndrome. Conclusion: Treatment of hyponatremic seizures with routine anticonvulsants may be ineffective and is associated with a considerable incidence of apnea. A rapid increase in the serum sodium concentration by 3 to 5 mmol/L with the use of hypertonic saline is safe and efficacious in managing acute symptomatic hyponatremia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-762
Number of pages5
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Central nervous system
  • Demyelination
  • Hypertonic
  • Hyponatremia
  • Patient outcome assessment
  • Saline solution
  • Seizures
  • Sodium


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