Patient’s sodium dropped further to 120 in the evening. He has had a precipitous drop that I suspect is due to over-diuresis, which does not seem to be a diagnosis within the lexicon of heart failure cardiologists. It is possible that he could have developed SIADH, through a drug side effect. In any case, we have reached the usual place where attempts to fix the heart have blithely interfered with renal physiology, and I am not willing to let his serum sodium decline into the 110s. If we give NS, and he has SIADH, we will worsen his serum sodium. We could use 3% NS, but he is not having mental status changes, yet, and this is bad form for a patient in heart failure. If he is volume depleted, and we use conivaptan, he could develop hypotension which would be difficult to fix. So I seem to have been finagled into ordering tolvaptan, which will hopefully prevent any further decrease tonight. Tolvaptan fixes a number and has not been shown to improve clinical outcomes with chronic use.
Clearly there is a large dose of crazy in the assessment and plan, but it highlights a number of real issues in hyponatremia. Let’s dissect the note a bit and tease out the best parts.
The first clam that over-diuresis does not seem to be a diagnosis within the lexicon of heart failure cardiologists seems to be true. A brief survey of google finds a paucity of relevant hits for the phrase and most of those are from nephrologists or family practitioners. Given the frequency that I see patients suffering from this I was a bit shocked at these results.
The next sentence seems a bit preposterous, It is possible that she could have developed SIADH, through a drug side effect. Presuming that a patient with heart failure induced hyponatremia now has a second denovo disease seems a bit of a stretch, but we don’t have access to the clinical data and so it is hard to determine if this is true. However the definition of SIADH requires that patients be euvolemic and judging from as much of the story as we know it seems like this patient is clinically hypervolemic. This rules out a clinical diagnosis of ADH, because the release of ADH in heart failure is due to physiological trigger for ADH, a decrease in perfusion. The disease of SIADH is specifically reserved for patients in which there is no physiologic stimuli for ADH release. The presence of heart failure and volume overload, definitionally rule out SIADH.
The next sentence is interesting: In any case, we have reached the usual place where attempts to fix the heart have blithely interfered with renal physiology, and I am not willing to let his serum sodium decline into the 110s. Diuretics increase water and sodium loss, but the cation content of the urine is almost always significantly lower than the plasma cation content, urinary sodium with loop diuretics is typically around 70 mmol/L. So use of loop diuretics cause loss of relatively more water than sodium and result in hypernatremia, except in heart failure. To understand why, one needs to understand electrolyte free water clearance (and an example of using it in the treatment in hypernaatremia is here). The higher the free water clearance, the less prone patients are to hyponatremia. Here are the calculations for electrolyte free water clearance for a patient with hyponatremia due to CHF before and after the addition of loop diuretics:
In CHF, the patient is actually doing a pretty good job clearing free water. More than half of the urine output is electrolyte free water, the character of the urine is appropriate for correcting the hyponatremia. The problem is not the character of the urine but the amount. The patient just doesn’t make enough urine to generate adequate electrolyte free water to account for the water the patient is drinking. Water restriction will be effective for these patients.
Unfortunately, though the diuretic increases the volume of urine, it also changes the character of the urine. In this case, it dramatically increases the urine sodium content. This makes the urine almost completely ineffective at removing electrolyte free water and the net result is that the electrolyte free water clearances actually falls with the addition of the diuretic. This is the trap our poor nephrologist is raging against.