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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Desmopressin acetate (DDAVP)-associated hyponatremia and brain damage: a case series.

  • Author(s): Achinger, Steven G
  • Arieff, Allen Israel
  • Kalantar-Zadeh, Kamyar
  • Ayus, Juan Carlos
  • et al.


Desmopressin (DDAVP) is typically prescribed for central diabetes insipidus, von Willebrands disease and for enuresis. DDAVP-associated hyponatremia is a known complication of DDAVP therapy. The currently recommended treatment for this condition calls for discontinuing DDAVP as part of the initial therapy. This recommendation could lead to a water diuresis and potentially over-correction of the serum sodium.


The 15 patients in this case series developed symptomatic DDAVP-associated hyponatremia and were admitted to acute care hospitals. Thirty-eight percent presented with symptomatic hyponatremia and 62% developed symptomatic hyponatremia due to concomitant DDAVP and hypotonic intravenous fluid administration during a hospital stay. Group 1 patients (n = 13) were treated by withholding DDAVP and providing intravenous saline. Group 2 patients (n = 2) were treated by continuing DDAVP and providing DDAVP and intravenous hypertonic saline.


Among Group 1 patients, in whom DDAVP was withheld as initial management of DDAVP-associated hyponatremia (n = 13), the mean change in serum sodium in the first 2 days of treatment was 37.1 ± 8.1 mEq/L. The ultimate outcome in this group was death in 23%, severe brain damage in 69% and moderate brain damage in 8%. In Group 2 patients, in whom DDAVP was continued (n = 2) as part of the initial management strategy, the mean change in serum sodium was 11.0 ± 0 mEq/L in the first 2 days. The ultimate outcome was survival without neurological sequelae in both cases.


Discontinuing DDAVP in a patient with symptomatic DDAVP-associated hyponatremia can lead to rapid correction of the serum sodium and resultant severe neurological injury. In contrast, continuing the medication while correcting DDAVP-associated hyponatremia may lead to better outcomes by avoiding over-correction of the serum sodium. Thus, an alternative approach that we propose is to continue DDAVP as part of the initial management of this disorder.

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