Hyponatremia at hospital admission or during hospitalization is a significant predictor of length of stay in cancer patients, according to a recent study published online in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Rossana Berardi, MD, and colleagues at  Università Politecnica Marche – Ospedali Riuniti in Ancona, Italy, studied 105 cancer patients hospitalized at their institution from June 2013 to December 2013. Of these, 32.4% had gastrointestinal cancer, 28.6% had lung cancer, 9.5% had sarcomas, and the rest had other cancer types. The researchers defined hyponatremia as a serum sodium level below 135 mEq/L.

Among patients whose hospital stay was 1–5 days, none had hyponatremia at admission (sodium level of 136 mEq/L or higher) compared with 81.6% and 53.8% of those who had a hospital stay of 6–15 days and longer than 15 days, respectively.

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Among patients whose hospital stay was 1–5, 6–15, and more than 15 days, less than 4%, 37%, and 73.1%, respectively, had hyponatremia during hospitalization.

The main cause of hyponatremia in cancer patients is the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH), which is most commonly found in patients with small cell lung cancer, Dr. Berardi’s group explained.