Central pontine myelinolysis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : CPM

Definition

Central pontine myelinolysis is brain cell dysfunction caused by the destruction of the layer (myelin sheath) covering nerve cells in the brainstem (pons).

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

The destruction of the myelin sheath that covers nerve cells prevents signals from being properly transmitted in the nerve. This decreases the nerve’s ability to communicate with other cells.

The most common cause of central pontine myelinolysis is a quick change in the body’s sodium levels. This most often occurs when someone is being treated for low levels of sodium (hyponatremia) and the levels rise too fast. It also can occasionally occur when high levels of sodium in the body (hypernatremia) are corrected too quickly.

This condition does not occur on its own. It is a complication of treatment for other conditions or from the other conditions themselves.

Risks include:

  • Alcoholism
  • General ill health
  • Low sodium levels from any cause
  • Malnutrition from serious illnesses
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Pictures & Images

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.


Review Date : 9/25/2008
Reviewed By : Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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