Hyponatremia and Central Pontine Myelinolysis

What is hyponatremia? Information regarding CPM and EPM.

CPM/EPM–What to expect:

English: Central pontine myelinolysis, MRI FLAIR

English: Central pontine myelinolysis, MRI FLAIR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope for those who are reading this, you are in good health or your loved one is.

If you developed a chronic form of hyponatremia, you are at risk for CPM if your sodium levels were raised too quickly.

Too quickly is not an absolute term. There are person’s who disagree on what “too quickly” means in regards to the treatment of hyponatremia.

Some specialists believe that too quickly is greater than 8 mmol in a 24 hour period. Other specialists would consider “too quickly” as 12 mmol in a 24 hour period.

I would recommend the safer the better no more than 8 mmol in a 24 hour period.

Bottom line, if your levels were raised more than 8 mmol in a 24 hour period, and you started to experience symptoms of CPM/EPM in a period of 3 to 10 days after your treatment for hyponatremia, it was raised “too quickly” for your system.

If it is raised more than 8 mmol in a 24 hour period, you are at risk for CPM/EPM. It doesn’t mean you will absolutely develop it.

I caution you to watch for symptoms during the next 3 to 10 days after treatment if you know your levels were raised at this rate or faster.

When you first start to develop CPM/EPM, your symptoms can vary, but will usually begin with muscle weakness, possible fatigue, headache, muscle stiffness, twitches/spasms/ jerks, trouble swallowing, issues with balance and coordination, visual issues, speech issues (stuttering, slurring or inability to form words), cognitive difficulties, issues with understanding speech, reading, and/or writing. Most importantly, a person can develop complete paralysis (locked-in syndrome), coma, and/or death.

I know, that’s enough to make your heart skip beats. Try to stay calm. This is a huge list of symptoms, and it does not mean that you will develop each one. You are at risk for them.

It is a serious condition, and you need to go to a well equipped hospital immediately, if you were recently released after receiving treatment for hyponatremia and have started to develop any of these symptoms.

It is not worth risking your life. If you are not certain if you are really experiencing these symptoms or not, but were recently treated for hyponatremia and “feel” as if something isn’t quite right, go and get it checked out.

The best way to determine if you have CPM/EPM is to have a T1 and T2 weighted MRI with contrast performed. It must be done with contrast.

***PLEASE KEEP IN MIND, THE DAMAGE ASSOCIATED WITH CPM/EPM MAY OR MAY NOT SHOW UP ON THE MRI FOR 2 TO 4 WEEKS!!! AN MRI IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE WAY TO DETECT IT. IT IS THE BEST WAY TO DETECT THE DAMAGE. ALSO, THE IMAGES CAN START TO SHOW SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT IN 4 TO 6 WEEKS!!!****

Yeah, I know, this makes it really difficult to diagnose. By the time you begin to develop symptoms, they might not be able to see the damage on the MRI. If your doctor waits too long to take an MRI, the lesions can heal. JUST BECAUSE THE LESIONS HEAL DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOUR INJURY IMPROVES.

This can lead to a misdiagnosis of Parkinsons. Some of the longest lasting symptoms a person may experience are movement issues (tremors, jerks, spasms, etc). So, it is not uncommon for a person to be misdiagnosed as having Parkinsons.

It is also not uncommon for a person to be incorrectly diagnosed as having a stroke, especially in the elderly.

So, what does this mean?

It means that you should spread the word regarding CPM/EPM. The more the public becomes aware of CPM/EPM, the less it will occur. In this case, prevention is the best way of defeating this disorder.

It is important for people to be aware of the symptoms associated with CPM/EPM. It is important for you to obtain your medical records if you developed any of the previously mentioned symptoms after your treatment to determine how quickly your sodium was raised.

If you experienced any of the above symptoms and your sodium level was raised faster than 8 mmol in a 24 hour period, it is very possible that you developed CPM/EPM.

If you’re making this discovery long after your treatment, you will still want to contact your doctor to request an MRI.

I would highly recommend contacting a neurologist who is experienced in treating CPM/EPM. Trust me, this is easier said than done. I will post information on some of the doctors who are associated with treating CPM/EPM, but please be aware that these doctors are few and far between.

That’s because there are approximately only 2000 cases “documented” each year. Now this number is under dispute. I received this number from the website I reported in my earlier post for hyponatremia. (I will insert it again in the near future). However, my friend, Jeffrey, who was trying to develop a CPM awareness support group, received information from the National Institute of Health that this number could be as high as 30,000 to 50,000.

WOW! That’s a huge difference. How could this be possible?

Well, it’s possible because CPM/EPM is almost 100% caused by medical malpractice, and more than half of those who develop it, die. Those who develop hyponatremia and CPM/EPM are usually being treated for other disorders, such as traumatic brain injury or major burns, etc. In other words, hyponatremia is common as a secondary illness.

To protect the hospital and doctors from a malpractice lawsuits, it is believed that in cases where hyponatremia is a secondary condition that leads to CPM/EPM, the hospital and doctor will list the cause of death as being from the burn, the brain injury, cancer, etc.

For those people who do not die, it is suspected that the hospital/ doctor will tell the patient or their families that the reason they are experiencing these new physical symptoms is because they are having side effects or reactions to the illness or treatments.

Even if there are 30,000 to 50,000 people who develop CPM each year, that is not a huge number of people. Consider the reported fact that at least 1.5 to 1.7 million people develop hyponatremia each year, this means that less than 5% of those will develop CPM/EPM. The reported statistical data suggests that only .03% to .15% of those who develop hyponatremia will develop CPM/EPM. According to recent statistics (which again can be very vague), approximately 500 to 2500 were reported in 2010-2011. I believe that these statistics aren’t extremely accurate due to the drastic variations that were reported from one year to the next.

It is extremely difficult to know for sure what is accurate and what isn’t. I will try to resume the research Jeffrey was uncovering, but his unexpected death due to complications from CPM has made it difficult.

I will report it and update my blog accordingly.

So, what does this mean? YOU need to be your own advocate. You need to access your medical records and determine if your levels were raised too quickly. If you are currently in the hospital, track your sodium levels as they raise it. Be sure you question your doctors regarding your treatment. If you are conscious and able, access information regarding the medicines that you are being given.

If you were recently released from the hospital, TRACK your symptoms. If you start experiencing any subtle changes, go to a DIFFERENT hospital from where you were treated for hyponatremia and demand that they do a MRI.

I literally had to drive to a different city and a major hospital. No one believed that I could have CPM/EPM.

Be adamant. It is also helpful if you provide the new hospital with the records for your treatment.

In most cases, you won’t have issues with being admitted for the problems you are experiencing because it is painfully obvious that there is an issue. Be sure that you have a representative who can speak for you, such as a friend or family member. Make sure you have your living will and/or power of attorney up to date.

It is not uncommon for a person to experience a temporary recovery from their HYPONATREMIA symptoms once their sodium levels are corrected. It is a brief window of relief before you begin to experience different neurological symptoms from CPM/EPM.

The window, as mentioned previously, is approximately 3 to 10 days after your sodium levels have been stabilized. It is the quiet before the storm.

I would use this time frame to prepare if your levels were corrected too quickly. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to get as many of your affairs in order as possible, and obtain your medical records from the hospital.

Remember, there are only a very few who experience issues with CPM/EPM, but if your sodium levels were raised too quickly then you are at a greater risk for it.

This is by far, one of my longest posts to date. I understand I’ve repeated some of the information over and over again, but you will only have this opportunity once. It’s absolutely necessary for you to do everything right from the start because there is no room for errors once you start down this road.

I hope this finds you in good health, but if you are one of those being impacted by CPM/EPM, please take comfort in that you are not alone. I hope my message can help you or your family cope with this road bump.

Many blessings!

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