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Am J Med. 1984 Nov 5;77(5A):18-27.

Diuretic-induced hypokalemia.


Diuretic therapy is the most common cause of potassium deficiency. Although the extent of potassium deficiency usually does not exceed 200 or 300 mEq, under appropriate circumstances such modest deficiency may have important consequences. Factors that tend to increase the incidence or severity of potassium deficiency in patients who take diuretics include high salt diets, large urine volumes, metabolic alkalosis, increased aldosterone production, and the simultaneous use of two diuretics that act on different sites in the renal tubule. There are many serious complications of potassium deficiency, including cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness, rhabdomyolysis, glucose intolerance, and several complications that result directly from increased ammonia production, such as protein and nitrogen wasting and hepatic coma. Emphasized herein are those conditions that impose potential danger in patients with mild hypokalemia. Important factors that identify specific causes of potassium deficiency and its treatment are discussed briefly.

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