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Am J Kidney Dis. 1990 Apr;15(4):309-15.

The transtubular potassium concentration in patients with hypokalemia and hyperkalemia.

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Renal Division, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada.


It is advantageous to make an independent assessment of the potassium (K) secretory process and the luminal flow rate in the renal cortex to evaluate K handling by the kidney during hypokalemia or hyperkalemia. The transtubular potassium concentration gradient (TTKG) is a semiquantitative index of the activity of the K secretory process. The purpose of this study was to define expected values for the TTKG in normal subjects with hypokalemia or following an acute K load. During hypokalemia of non-renal origin, the TTKG was 0.9 +/- 0.2; in contrast, the TTKG was significantly higher during the hypokalemia of hyperaldosteronism, 6.7 +/- 1.3. The TTKG was 11.8 +/- 3.6, 2 hours after normokalemic subjects received 0.2 mg 9 alpha-fludrocortisone (9 alpha-F). To obtain expected values during hyperkalemia, normal subjects ingested 50 mmol potassium chloride; 2 hours later, the TTKG was 13.1 +/- 3.8. Therefore, the expected value for the TTKG must be interpreted relative to the concentration of K in the plasma. Circumstances were also defined where the TTKG is low despite hyperaldosteronism, namely, during a water diuresis and pre-existing hypokalemia.

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