Object.Two major criteria are necessary to diagnose cerebral salt wasting (CSW): a cerebral lesion and a large urinary excretion of Na+ and Cl− at a time when the extracellular fluid (ECF) volume is contracted. Nevertheless, it is difficult for the physician to confirm from bedside observation that a patient has a contracted ECF volume. Hyponatremia, although frequently present, should not be a criterion for a diagnosis of salt wasting. A contracted ECF volume is unlikely if there are positive balances of Na+ and Cl−.
The goal of this study was to assess the accuracy of calculating balances for Na+ plus K+ and of Cl− over 1 to 10 days in an intensive care unit (ICU) setting.
Methods.A prospective comparison of measured and estimated quantities of Na+ plus K+ and of Cl− excreted over 1 to 10 days in 10 children and 12 adults who had recently received a traumatic brain injury or undergone recent neurosurgery. Plasma concentrations of electrolytes were recorded at the beginning and end of the study period. The total volumes infused and excreted and the concentrations of Na+, K+, and Cl− in the infusate were obtained from each patient's ICU chart. The electrolytes in the patients' urine were measured and calculated. Correlations between measured and calculated values for excretions of Cl− and of Na+ plus K+ were excellent. Conclusions.Mass balances for Na+ plus K+ and for Cl− can be accurately estimated. These data provide information to support or refute a clinical diagnosis of CSW. The danger of relying on balances for these electrolytes measured within a single day to diagnose CSW is illustrated.