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Int J Cardiol. 2009 Sep 11;137(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.05.047. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

A propensity-matched study of low serum potassium and mortality in older adults with chronic heart failure.

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  • 1Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

Erratum in

  • Int J Cardiol. 2010 Nov 19;145(2):409.



Most HF patients are older adults, yet the associations of low serum potassium and outcomes in these patients are unknown. We studied the effect of low serum potassium in a propensity-matched population of elderly HF patients.


Of the 7788 patients in the Digitalis Investigation Group trial, 4036 were >or=65 years. Of these, 3598 had data on baseline serum potassium and 324 with potassium >or=5 mEq/L were excluded. Remaining patients were categorized into low (<4 mEq/L; n=590) and normal (4-4.9 mEq/L; n=2684) potassium groups. Propensity scores for low-potassium, calculated for each patient, were used to match 561 low-potassium and 1670 normal-potassium patients. Association of low potassium and outcomes were assessed using matched Cox regression analyses.


Patients had a mean (+/-SD) age of 72 (+/-6) years, 29% were women and 12% were non-whites. Of the 561 low-potassium patients, 500 had low-normal (3.5-3.9 mEq/L) potassium. All-cause mortality occurred in 37% (rate, 1338/10,000 person-years) normal-potassium and 43% (rate, 1594/10,000 person-years) low-potassium patients (hazard ratio {HR} for low-potassium, 1.22; 95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.04-1.44; p=0.014). Low-normal (3.5-3.9 mEq/L) potassium levels had a similar association with mortality (HR, 1.19, 95% CI, 1.00-1.41, p=0.049). Low (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.96-1.25; p=0.175) or low-normal (HR=1.09, 95% CI=0.95-1.25, p=0.229) serum potassium levels were not associated with all-cause hospitalization.


In a propensity-matched population of elderly ambulatory chronic HF patients, well-balanced in all measured baseline covariates, low and low-normal serum potassium were associated with increased mortality but had no association with hospitalization.

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