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Quickly Reducing High Potassium Levels Improves Outcomes

Lower mortality seen in emergency department patients whose potassium is normalized quickly

FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Rapid correction of elevated serum potassium levels (K+) is associated with reduced mortality in emergency department patients, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Adam J. Singer, M.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, and colleagues reviewed the electronic medical records of 1,033 patients presenting at a large academic emergency department (October 2016 to October 2017) with hyperkalemia (HK; K+ ≥5.5 mEq/L). In-hospital mortality was compared between patients whose K+ normalized (dropped below 5.5 mEq/L) versus those whose did not. The analysis included 884 patients with a second K+ measurement within eight hours.

The researchers found that mortality and admission rates were higher in patients with HK versus those with normal K+ (8.5 versus 0.8 percent and 80 versus 39 percent, respectively). Compared with patients whose K+ remained elevated, mortality was lower in patients whose HK normalized (12.7 versus 6.3 percent). Normalization of K+ was associated with reduced mortality (odds ratio, 0.47) when adjusting for age, creatinine, comorbidities, and initial K+.

“Because of the increasing risk of hyperkalemia in this population, it is important, as our study showed, to develop protocols that help quickly identify and correct hyperkalemia while the patient is still in the emergency department,” Singer said in a statement.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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