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Am J Med. 1986 Apr 25;80(4A):3-7.

Potassium physiology.

Abstract

Potassium is the most abundant exchangeable cation in the body. It exists predominantly in the intracellular fluid at concentrations of 140 to 150 meq/liter and in the extracellular fluid at concentrations of 3.5 to 5 meq/liter. The maintenance of the serum potassium concentration is a complex bodily function and results from the balance between intake, excretion, and distribution between intracellular and extracellular space. Ingested potassium is virtually completely absorbed from and minimally excreted through the intestine under nonpathologic circumstances. Renal excretion of potassium, which is the major chronic protective mechanism against abnormalities in potassium balance, depends on filtration, reabsorption, and a highly regulated distal nephron secretory process. Factors regulating potassium secretion include prior potassium intake, intracellular potassium, delivery of sodium chloride and poorly reabsorbable anions to the distal nephron, the urine flow rate, hormones such as aldosterone and beta-catecholamines, and the integrity of the renal tubular cell. The maintenance of distribution between the inside and outside of cells depends on the integrity of the cell membrane and its pumps, osmolality, pH, and the hormones insulin, aldosterone, beta 2-catecholamines, alpha-catecholamines, and prostaglandins. Both distribution across cell membranes and/or renal excretion of potassium may be altered by pharmacologic agents such as diuretics, alpha- and beta-catechol antagonists and agonists, depolarizing agents, and digitalis. Problems with hypokalemia and hyperkalemia can be analyzed on the basis of potassium physiology and pharmacology; proper treatment depends on an accurate analysis.

PMID:
3706350
DOI:
10.1016/0002-9343(86)90334-7
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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