Causes and treatment of low sodium levels in the blood and dangerous hyponatremia
Tom Brady's recommendation of drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day may be dangerous for many people
Tom Brady’s book, The TB12 Method, recently came out and contains the legendary Patriots quarterback’s healthy living ideas.
One of the recommendations that caught my eye deals with hydration.
The National Academies of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women have a daily intake of 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water—meaning from all beverages and food. For men the daily recommendation is 3.7 liters (125 ounces). According to the Board, about 80% of most people’s total water intake comes from drinking water in beverages, with the other 20% coming from food.
Tom Brady has a different idea altogether. In his book, he writes that he drinks over 37 glasses of water per day. Considering an average glass holds eights ounces of water, that works out to just under 300 ounces a day. He recommends that others “Drink at least one-half of your body weight in ounces of water every day” and says, “That’s the minimum. Ideally, you’ll drink more than that, and with added electrolytes, too.”
A nutritionist has warned that over-drinking water is both dangerous and unnecessary because the human body can only process so much liquid. At a certain point, it can be life-threatening, causing hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia and medical malpractice
Our bodies maintain a delicate balance of electrolytes and water. The dangerous medical condition called hyponatremia involves low blood serum levels of the element sodium. This can be caused by excessive drinking of water, which flushes the body and deplete sodium levels.
In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have seen uncontrolled hyponatremia happen more commonly as a result hospital and physician mismanagement of patients who have a space occupying lesion of the head. That is a strange phrase that experts use to describe anything abnormal that takes up space in the heads cranial cavity. It could be a brain tumor, bleeding or hemorrhage caused by trauma (like a car wreck or taking a bad blow to the head), or swelling after brain surgery.
In the course of representing a number of clients in hyponatremia medical malpractice cases, I have hired some of the world’s top experts who care for patients with hyponatremia complications. The experts explained that physicians and nursing staff should closely monitor patients who recently had a brain surgery, swelling, or bleeding by taking repeated bloodwork to measure the serum sodium level.
This bloodwork is inexpensive, but can be life-saving. If hyponatremia is identified quickly, it is easy to correct with equally-inexpensive hypertonic saline solution.
Unfortunately, I have seen time and time again where hospitals do a great job in treating a patient for life-threatening traumatic injuries, only to botch their duties after the fact by not keeping an eye on sodium.
In a number of cases, after a brain surgery, doctors and nurses did no bloodwork for a few days, during which patients’ sodium levels plummeted. One of the early telltale signs of hyponatremia, in these circumstances, is the patient begins to act out of character. Healthcare providers call this altered mental status.
Often, family members are the first people to recognize that their loved one has an altered mental status. If you find yourself in the situation, assertively bring it up with the nursing staff or physician and ask when the patient’s serum sodium levels were last assessed. If it is been a day or two, request immediate bloodwork.
When a patient’s serum sodium levels get too low, it is much more difficult for the doctors to manage it. The sodium-water balance is rather delicate. While the serum sodium levels need replenished back to normal, it cannot be done too quickly, or it can cause one type of brain damage. On the other hand, if the serum sodium levels are dangerously low and not corrected in time, it can cause the brain to swell, leading to permanent brain damage or even death.
We are here to help
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of mismanagement of care after trauma or brain surgery, including hyponatremia, call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.
Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who focuses his law practice on representing patients and family members and medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. He speaks and writes frequently on topics related to healthcare and medical negligence. He is a past editor-in-chief of The Houston Lawyer magazine and currently serves on the editorial board of the Texas Bar Journal.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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Published in the July/August 2018 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine