What are neurologic complications of dehydration?

Updated: Dec 07, 2018
  • Author: Lennox H Huang, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Timothy E Corden, MD  more...
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Answer

Neurologic complications can occur in hyponatremic and hypernatremic states. Severe hyponatremia may lead to intractable seizures, whereas rapid correction of chronic hyponatremia (>2 mEq/L/h) has been associated with central pontine myelinolysis. During hypernatremic dehydration, water is osmotically pulled from cells into the extracellular space. To compensate, cells can generate osmotically active particles (idiogenic osmoles) that pull water back into the cell and maintain cellular fluid volume. During rapid rehydration of hypernatremia, the increased osmotic activity of these cells can result in a large influx of water, causing cellular swelling and rupture; cerebral edema is the most devastating consequence. Slow rehydration over 48 hours generally minimizes this risk (not to exceed 0.5 mEq/L per hour; 10-12 mEq/L in 24 hours).


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