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Volume depletion versus dehydration: how understanding the difference can guide therapy.

Although often used interchangeably, dehydration and volume depletion are not synonyms. Dehydration refers to loss of total-body water, producing hypertonicity, which now is the preferred term in lieu of dehydration, whereas volume depletion refers to a deficit in extracellular fluid volume. In particular, hypertonicity implies intracellular volume contraction, whereas volume depletion implies blood volume contraction. Using a case of hyperglycemic hypertonic nonketosis as an example, we examine the changing composition of body fluid spaces to explore the distinction between dehydration and hypertonicity from volume depletion.

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