A man folds his hands near his mouth with a concerned look.

We know receiving a scary medical diagnosis can be hard. With a name like central pontine myelinolysis (CPM for short) it’s easy to take one glance at the name and feel overwhelmed, but hang in there with us.

We’re going to simplify things as best as we can and break it down point by point. We’ll explain what it is and why it happens.

As you read this post, be sure to keep one thing in mind: CPM is usually treatment induced. This means that medical negligence is likely the cause.

Follow us to the next section, where we’ll explain things in more detail and get to the root of the issue.

What Causes Central Pontine Myelinolysis?

Central pontine myelinolysis is a neurological disorder. It’s very similar to a condition called osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS.) In fact, many use the terms interchangeably. This next part may get a little technical, so bear with us.

CPM/ODS occurs when the sodium levels in the body change too rapidly. When a patient has hyponatremia aka low blood sodium, and the problem is over-corrected, damage can occur.

What happens is the fatty protective substance that protects the nerves in your brainstem starts to deteriorate. Sound serious? It is.

That important substance is called the myelin sheath. 

If the myelin sheath starts to deteriorate, your nerves can’t transmit signals to each other. This is a big problem. 

A doctor's model of a human brain.

So What Causes Sodium Imbalance?

In 1959, when researchers first began their investigation into central pontine myelinolysis, they thought it was caused by either alcoholism or malnutrition.

We now know there are many other conditions that can disrupt your body’s sodium levels. Here, let’s take a look at some of the other conditions that can put patients at a higher risk:

► Liver disease               


► Certain types of cancer

► Radiation treatments

► Electrolyte disorders

Hyperemesis gravidarum (which involves severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy)

► Serious burns

All of these conditions (among others) can lead to hyponatremia, or low sodium.

This alone won’t cause central pontine myelinolysis or osmotic demyelination syndrome, but what can is how your doctor chooses to treat you. To avoid a bad situation your doctor has to be extremely careful and shouldn’t over-correct the issue. To swing your sodium level from one extreme to the other can cause serious issues. 

Central Pontine Myelinolysis Symptoms

If a patient experiences low blood sodium levels, a visit to the doctor is crucial and should be immediate. Most doctors are more than capable and will decide on the right course of action. 

But here’s the thing, every once in a while an inexperienced or careless doctor may make a bad call. If you or your family member has experienced symptoms of central pontine myelinolysis, then it’s possible your doctor may have failed to treat you correctly. And they should be held accountable.

Here’s a list of symptoms associated with CPM/ODS, and what to watch out for: 

► Confusion and delirium

► Hallucinations

► Difficult swallowing

► Tremors

► Lack of focus

► Persistent drowsiness or lethargy

► Slow responses and a lack of alertness

► Balance issues

► Slurred speech

► Weakness in the limbs or face

When you enter a healthcare facility for one issue, you don’t expect to leave with a whole slew of new ones. If you or a family member are dealing with any of these issues after seeking treatment for sodium imbalance, you might want to talk to a lawyer. Someone needs to ask questions and figure out who’s at fault.

A man sits with his hands folded near his face.

What To Do If You Have CPM/ODS

Unfortunately, there’s no permanent fix for either condition, but there are treatment options that can help such as physical therapy and speech therapy. It also helps if treatment is started early. 

If you or someone you love has experienced CPM or ODS, you should talk with a legal professional. These conditions are typically caused by medical negligence.

With such permanent consequences many people experience long-term physical impairment, emotional trauma, and financial repercussions because of it. You didn’t deserve this in the first place, and now you may deserve compensation. 

Contact us if you have any questions or believe you’re the victim of medical malpractice and negligence.