In this review three major issues of sodium homeostasis are addressed. Specifically, volume-dependent (salt-sensitive) hypertension, sodium chloride content of maintenance fluid and clinical evaluation of hyponatremia are discussed. Regarding volume-dependent hypertension the endocrine/paracrine systems mediating renal sodium retention, the relationship between salt intake, plasma sodium levels and blood pressure, as well as data on the dissociation of sodium and volume regulation are presented. The concept of perinatal programming of salt-preference is also mentioned. Some theoretical and practical aspects of fluid therapy are summarized with particular reference to using hypotonic sodium chloride solution for maintenance fluid as opposed to the currently proposed isotonic sodium chloride solution. Furthermore, the incidence, the aetiological classification and central nervous system complications of hyponatremia are presented, too. In addition, clinical and pathophysical features of hyponatremic encephalophathy and osmotic demyelinisation are given. The adaptive reactions of the brain to hypotonic stress are also described with particular emphasis on the role of brain-specific water channel proteins (aquaporin-4) and the benzamil-inhibitable sodium channels. In view of the outmost clinical significance of hyponatremia, the principles of efficient and safe therapeutic approaches are outlined.
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