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Fatal case of hospital-acquired hypernatraemia in a neonate: lessons learned from a tragic error

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A 3-week-old boy with viral gastroenteritis was by error given 200 mL 1 mmol/mL hypertonic saline intravenously instead of isotonic saline. His plasma sodium concentration (PNa) increased from 136 to 206 mmol/L. Extreme brain shrinkage and universal hypoperfusion despite arterial hypertension resulted. Treatment with glucose infusion induced severe hyperglycaemia. Acute haemodialysis decreased the PNa to 160 mmol/L with an episode of hypoperfusion. The infant developed intractable seizures, severe brain injury on magnetic resonance imaging and died. The most important lesson is to avoid recurrence of this tragic error. The case is unique because a known amount of sodium was given intravenously to a well-monitored infant. Therefore the findings give us valuable data on the effect of fluid shifts on the PNa, the circulation and the brain's response to salt intoxication and the role of dialysis in managing it. The acute salt intoxication increased PNa to a level predicted by the Edelman equation with no evidence of osmotic inactivation of sodium. Treatment with glucose in water caused severe hypervolaemia and hyperglycaemia; the resulting increase in urine volume exacerbated hypernatraemia despite the high urine sodium concentration, because electrolyte-free water clearance was positive. When applying dialysis, caution regarding circulatory instability is imperative and a treatment algorithm is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical kidney journal
Volume14
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1277-1283
Number of pages7
ISSN2048-8505
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ERA-EDTA.

ID: 61914792