Cerebral salt wasting: Truths, fallacies, theories, and challenges Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: The reported prevalence of cerebral salt wasting has increased in the past three decades. A cerebral lesion and a large natriuresis without a known stimulus to excrete so much sodium (Na ) constitute its essential two elements. OBJECTIVES: To review the topic of cerebral salt wasting. There is a diagnostic problem because it is difficult to confirm that a stimulus for the renal excretion of Na is absent. DESIGN: Review article. INTERVENTION: None. MAIN RESULTS: Three fallacies concerning cerebral salt wasting are stressed: first, cerebral salt wasting is a common disorder; second, hyponatremia should be one of its diagnostic features; and third, most patients have a negative balance for Na when the diagnosis of cerebral salt wasting is made. Three causes for the large natriuresis were considered: first, a severe degree of extracellular fluid volume expansion could down-regulate transporters involved in renal Na resorption; second, an adrenergic surge could cause a pressure natriuresis; and third, natriuretic agents might become more potent when the effective extracellular fluid volume is high. CONCLUSIONS: Cerebral salt wasting is probably much less common than the literature suggests. With optimal treatment in the intensive care unit, hyponatremia should not develop.


  • Singh, Sheila
  • Bohn, Desmond
  • Carlotti, Ana PCP
  • Cusimano, Michael
  • Rutka, James T
  • Halperin, Mitchell L

publication date

  • November 2002