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Minor Setback for Bret Michaels: What is Hyponatremia?

Bret Michaels has reportedly suffered hyponatremia. Physicians say it is a "minor setback".
Bret Michaels has reportedly suffered hyponatremia. Physicians say it is a "minor setback".
AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, file

Hyponatremia has caused a “minor setback” for Bret Michaels, but should not prevent recovery from SAH (subarachnoid hemorrhage). Hyponatremia is the medical term for low sodium levels in the body, and is a known potential complication of subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Frequent blood testing performed in the intensive care unit readily detects patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage at risk for seizures, confusion, and other electrolyte imbalances from hyponatremia. Treatment includes administering appropriate intravenous fluids and medications. Bret Michaels is still anticipated to recover, despite the complication that would be closely monitored.

According to Bret Michael’s physician, hyponatremia is a "minor setback". Doctors remain “hopeful that Bret will gradually improve as the blood surrounding the brain dissolves and is reabsorbed into his system, which can be a very painful recovery and take several weeks to months."

Hyponatremia associated with SAH usually occurs several days after brain injury occurs in response to hormonal imbalances caused by stress from brain hemorrhage, and is sometimes worsened by anti-seizure medications.

Treatment includes very close monitoring and judicious administration of appropriate fluids and medication to correct the imbalance. In some instances it is necessary to limit fluids to correct hyponatremia. A complication of fluid restriction is spasm of the cerebral arteries. Despite the underlying cause, correcting low sodium levels in patient with subarachnoid hemorrhage must be done slowly, meaning it may be several days before Bret Michaels is stabilized.

Hyponatremia can also cause neurological deficits, making monitoring of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage especially challenging. The “minor setback” for Bret Michaels – hyponatremia – is common for patients suffering from subarachnoid hemorrhage. According to the journal Chest, low sodium occurs in one third of patients with SAH.

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