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Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2017 Sep;24(5):305-314. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2017.06.002.

Regulation of Potassium Homeostasis in CKD.

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Section on General Internal Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC, and the Division of Nephrology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA. Electronic address:


Disturbances of potassium homeostasis can cause either hyperkalemia or hypokalemia and result in serious consequences. Although the consequences of acute and chronic hyperkalemia and treatment of these conditions in CKD have been widely appreciated by nephrologists, more recent information has focused attention on the consequences of chronic hypokalemia. Several recent studies have documented a "U-shaped" relationship between the serum [K+] and higher mortality in several clinical studies. The causes of dyskalemias are placed into the unique perspective of patients with CKD and its evolution with progression of CKD to later stages and focuses on the pathophysiology of these disorders. Emphasis is placed on the high mortality associated with both low and high levels of potassium that are unique to patients with CKD. Recent information regarding sensors of changes in the serum [K+] that evoke changes in NaCl transport in the DCT1 and subsequent efferent responses by aldosterone-responsive cells in the DCT2 and cortical collecting duct to adjust K+ secretion by the renal outer medullary potassium channel is reviewed in detail. These sensing mechanisms can be interrupted by drugs, such as the calcineurin inhibitors to cause both hypertension and hyperkalemia in kidney transplant patients, or can be inherited as familial hypertensive hyperkalemia. The role and pathogenesis of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers in causing hyperkalemia is a common stop point for cessation of these important drugs, but, and newer agents to lower the serum [K+] that might allow continuation of angiotensin-converting enzyme or angiotensin receptor blocker therapy are examined. Finally, the importance of emphasis on potassium-containing foods, such as fresh produce and fruit in the diets of patients with early-stage CKD, is examined as an under-appreciated area requiring more emphasis by nephrologists caring for these patients and may be unique to food-challenged patients with CKD.


Dyskalemias; Hyperkalemia; Hypokalemia; Metabolic acidosis

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