Myelinolysis is a neurologic disorder that can occur after rapid correction of hyponatremia.Initially named “central pontine myelinolysis,” this disease is now known to also affect extrapontine brain areas. Manifestations of myelinolysis usually evolve several days after correction of hyponatremia. Typical features are disorders of upper motor neurons, spastic quadriparesis and pseudobulbar palsy, and mental disorders ranging from mild confusion to coma. Death may occur. The motor and localizing signs of myelinolysis differ from the generalized encephalopathy that is caused by untreated hyponatremia.
Experiments have duplicated the clinical and pathologic features of myelinolysis by rapidly reversing hyponatremia in animals.Myelinolysis is more likely to occur after the treatment of chronic rather than acute hyponatremia and is more likely to occur with a rapid rate of correction. The exact pathogenesis of myelinolysis has not been determined.
Optimal management of hyponatremic patients involves weighing the risk for illness and death from untreated hyponatremia against the risk for myelinolysis due to correction of hyponatremia.Experiments in animals and clinical experience suggest that correction of chronic hyponatremia should be kept at a rate less than 10 mmol/L in any 24-hour period.