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Miner Electrolyte Metab. 1988;14(2-3):163-6.

Life-threatening hypokalemia in hospitalized patients.

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Department of Internal Medicine E, Beilinson Medical Center, Petah Tiqva, Israel.


Severe life-threatening hypokalemia (serum potassium less than or equal to 2.5 mmol/l) was found in 0.03% of serum biochemical profiles within 13 years in a major university hospital in Israel. Out of 130 patients with hypokalemia of this magnitude, 84 (65%) were females and the mean age was 64 years. A combination of iatrogenic factors, including the administration of intravenous fluids with insufficient or no potassium (K) replacement and the use of K-depleting medications and insulin, was responsible for the hypokalemia in 68% of the patients. Gastrointestinal loss of K was the main cause of severe hypokalemia in 22% of the patients. It is concluded that severe hypokalemia in hospitalized patients is commonly the result of multiple iatrogenic factors and, therefore, can be prevented by frequent monitoring of serum K and appropriate K supplementation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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