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Cerebral salt-wasting syndrome (CSWS) was initially described over 60 years ago in hyponatremic patients with a cerebral lesion. However, the diagnostic criteria for CSWS have not been fully established. Thus, when hyponatremia is observed in patients with CSWS, they may be misdiagnosed as having the syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). Thus, it is critical to differentiate between these 2 conditions because their treatments are diametrically opposed.We carried out a retrospective study of 45 patients with CSWS and compared them to 60 normonatremic control patients, and 28 patients with SIADH. All patients had their 24-hour urine volumes and sodium (Na) excretion measured.In patients with CSWS, urinary Na excretion was 394 ± 369 mmol/24 hours and urinary volume was 2,603 ± 996 mL/24 hours; both values significantly greater than in controls (P < 0.01). By contrast, in patients with SIADH, the urine Na excretion was only 51 ± 25 mmol/24 hours and urine volume was 745 ± 298 mL/24 hours; values significantly lower than in patients with CSWS (P < 0.01).CSWS was diagnosed in patients with cerebral lesion who had (1) symptomatic hyponatremia, (2) urine Na excretion 2 standard deviations above controls and (3) increased urine volume. Patients with SIADH also had symptomatic hyponatremia but, in contrast to patients with CSWS, they had decreased Na excretion and urine volume. Thus urine Na excretion and volume are very important for diagnosing the cause of hyponatremia in patients with cerebral lesions.