A newly identified syndrome that most commonly afflicts women after they have undergone routine elective surgery can be treated effectively if diagnosed quickly, researchers say. Brain damage and death can be avoided if the level of sodium in the blood of patients with hyponatremia is raised before they stop breathing, Dr. Allen I. Arieff of the University of California suggests in the New England Journal of Medicine.
He studied women who had undergone routine surgery such as hysterectomy, cosmetic surgery or repair of a ligament torn in aerobics class and who appeared to be recovering normally after their operations. Within two days, they all suffered seizures, stopped breathing and lapsed into comas. The syndrome is apparently caused by a malfunction of the kidney, which dilutes the amount of salt in the blood and causes the brain to swell.