Dangerous low sodium needs prompt and proper medical care


Not correcting hyponatremia fast enough, or too quickly, both can cause death

May 24, 2016

I recently was contacted by the family of a middle-aged man who died from complication of hyponatremia, following care at Christus St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, in Beaumont, Texas.

Hyponatremia is a dangerous condition caused when a person has a low serum sodium level. Sodium is a very important electrolyte for our bodies, with roles in maintaining blood pressure, nerve communication and fluid balance. When a person has hyponatremia, it requires urgent and correct medical attention.

Painter Law Firm’s Texas medical malpractice attorneys have handled cases where doctors and hospitals have under-corrected a patient’s low sodium level and other cases where they correct a patient’s hyponatremia too rapidly. Both ways are often negligent and can lead to tragedy.

If the doctors and hospital staff do not correct hyponatremia quickly enough, it can cause the patient to experience brain swelling and herniation, and ultimately death. If they try to correct the sodium too quickly, though, then the patient can develop central pontine myelinolysis, which is also called osmotic demyelination syndrome. This condition can also be fatal.

The deceased man in Beaumont passed away from central pontine myelinolysis. This condition is a brain cellular dysfunction caused when the myelin sheath covering nerve cells in the pons, or middle of the brainstem, is destroyed. When the myelin sheath is destroyed, nerve cells cannot communicate properly with one another.

According to medical experts, the correct treatment for hyponatremia is for the treating doctor to order IV hypertonic saline to be given gradually, with close nursing monitoring, which includes regularly re-testing the serum sodium level several times per day and communicating the results back to the doctor.

As patients and family members, it is important to be aware of the risk factors for developing hyponatremia.

The period after any surgical procedure is a known risk factor. After any surgery, patients have a strong likelihood of increased anti-diuretic hormone levels, which can lead to hyponatremia. If you notice an unusual change in mental status or attitude, such as irritability, anger and confusion, be sure to sure to tell the doctor and nurse about it, and even ask about the sodium level.

Other risk factors for developing hyponatremia include anything that can affect a person’s electrolyte levels, such as diuretic medications, heart, kidney or liver conditions, chronic vomiting or diarrhea and dehydration.

If you or someone you care for has been harmed by poor medical or nursing care involving hyponatremia, call the Houston medical malpractice lawyers at Painter Law Firm, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation. We handles medical malpractice cases all over Texas.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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