Clinical and biochemical effects of supplementing dietary sodium intake to 4 to 5 mmol(mEq)/kg/day from days 4 to 14 of life were studied in 22 infants of gestational age 27 to 34 weeks. These infants were compared with a group of 24 unsupplemented babies. Supplemented infants lost less weight postnatally and regained birthweight more quickly: their improved weight gain continued after supplementation was stopped. Sodium balance was positive at age 5 to 11 days in supplemented babies but slightly negative in controls. Potassium balance was more strongly positive in the supplemented group. Plasma sodium concentration was higher in supplemented infants during weeks 3 and 4. Hyponatraemia was significantly more common in unsupplemented (37.5%) than supplemented (13.6%) infants. No infant became oedematous, hypernatraemic, or showed evidence of circulatory overload. The incidence of patent ductus arteriosus and necrotising enterocolitis was not increased; no intracranial haemorrhages occurred. Urinary potassium:sodium ratio was lower in supplemented babies than controls suggesting responsiveness of the distal tubule to mineralocorticoids. Providing 4 to 5 mmol(mEq)/kg/day of sodium to infants born before 34 weeks' gestation for the first two postnatal weeks improves growth and biochemical status and causes no undesirable side effects.
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