II. Pathophysiology

III. Causes

IV. Findings: Signs and Symptoms

  1. Symptoms occur when Serum Potassium > 6.0 to 6.5 meq/L
  2. Neurologic Changes
    1. Weakness
    2. Paresthesias
    3. Areflexia
    4. Ascending paralysis
    5. Respiratory Failure
  3. Cardiovascular Changes
    1. Bradycardia to Asystole or Ventricular Fibrillation
    2. AV prolonged transmission to complete Heart Block

V. Labs

  1. Chemistry Panel
    1. Serum Potassium
    2. Serum Electrolytes including serum bicarbonate
    3. Renal Function tests (BUN, Creatinine)
  2. Spot urine for Urine Potassium, Urine Sodium and Urine Creatinine
    1. Fractional Excretion of Potassium
    2. Transtubular Potassium Gradient
    3. Urine Sodium <25 mEq/L suggests decreased distal renal flow
      1. See Hyperkalemia Causes
  3. Other labs to consider (see evaluation below)
    1. Serum Aldosterone
    2. Serum renin

VI. Diagnostics: Electrocardiogram

  1. EKG changes occur when Serum Potassium >6.0 meq/L
  2. Initial
    1. T Waves peaked or Tented (increased amplitude) in V2, V3, II, III
  3. Next
    1. ST depression
    2. First degree AV Block (PR Interval increases)
    3. QT Interval shortening
  4. Next (ominous harbinger)
    1. QRS Duration widening (>110 msec)
    2. Loss of P Wave (Junctional Rhythm)
    3. Sine Wave appearance
    4. New Bundle Branch Block
  5. Final
    1. Biphasic wave (sine wave) QRS and T fusion
    2. Severe Bradycardia
    3. Imminent Asystole, Ventricular Tachycardia or Ventricular Fibrillation
  6. Changes exacerbated by
    1. Hyponatremia
    2. Hypocalcemia
    3. Metabolic Acidosis
    4. Hypermagnesemia
    5. Chronic Renal Failure with frequent, recurrent Hyperkalemia
      1. Change from normal EKG to Cardiac Arrest may be rapid in these patients

VII. Evaluation: Non-Renal Causes (transcellular shift, Potassium load, Pseudohyperkalemia)

  1. Serious signs of Hyperkalemia present (EKG, symptoms)
    1. Urgent Hyperkalemia Management
  2. Consider Pseudohyperkalemia
    1. Consider confirmatory testing (re-draw sample)
  3. Consider exogenous source or transcellular shift
    1. See Hyperkalemia Causes
    2. Eliminate causative factors

VIII. Evaluation: Decreased renal excetion

  1. Urine Sodium <25 mEq/L suggests decreased distal renal flow
    1. See Hyperkalemia Causes
    2. Acute Kidney Injury or Chronic Kidney Disease
    3. Congestive Heart Failure
    4. Cirrhosis
  2. Urine Sodium >25 mEq/L with normal serum Aldosterone
    1. Primary tubular defects (e.g. RTA-4)
    2. Obstructive uropathy
    3. Tubular unresponsiveness to Aldosterone (e.g. SLE, Multiple Myeloma, Sickle Cell Anemia)
    4. Medications (e.g. Potassium sparing Diuretics, Lithium, Trimethoprim)
  3. Urine Sodium >25 mEq/L with low serum Aldosterone and normal serum renin
    1. Primary Adrenal Insufficiency
    2. Medications (Heparin, Cyclosporine, ACE Inhibitor, ARB)
  4. Urine Sodium >25 mEq/L with low serum Aldosterone and low serum renin
    1. Hyperglycemia
    2. Primary renal tubular defects
    3. Medications (e.g. NSAIDs, Beta Blockers)

IX. Management

X. References

  1. Gibbs in Marx (2002) Rosen's Emerg Med, p. 1730-1
  2. Klahr (2001) in Noble (2001) Primary Care p. 1359-62
  3. Viera (2015) Am Fam Physician 92(6): 487-95 [PubMed]

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Ontology: Hyperkalemia (C0020461)

Definition (NCI) Higher than normal levels of potassium in the circulating blood; associated with kidney failure or sometimes with the use of diuretic drugs.
Definition (NCI_CTCAE) A disorder characterized by laboratory test results that indicate an elevation in the concentration of potassium in the blood; associated with kidney failure or sometimes with the use of diuretic drugs.
Definition (MSH) Abnormally high potassium concentration in the blood, most often due to defective renal excretion. It is characterized clinically by electrocardiographic abnormalities (elevated T waves and depressed P waves, and eventually by atrial asystole). In severe cases, weakness and flaccid paralysis may occur. (Dorland, 27th ed)
Definition (CSP) abnormally high potassium concentration in the blood, most often due to defective renal excretion; characterized clinically by electrocardiographic abnormalities; in severe cases, weakness and flaccid paralysis may occur.
Concepts Finding (T033)
MSH D006947
ICD9 276.7
ICD10 E87.5
SnomedCT 154761005, 154764002, 166689004, 14140009, 238142003
English Hyperkalemias, Hyperpotassemia, Hyperpotassemias, HYPERKALAEMIA, HYPERKALEMIA, HYPERPOTASSAEMIA, hyperkalemia (diagnosis), high blood potassium level, hyperkalemia, Potassium [K] excess, Potassium [K] overload, Hyperkalemia [Disease/Finding], Hyperkalemia, potassium overload, excess k, excess potassium, potassium excess, hyperpotassemia, excessive potassium in the blood, Hyperkalaemia (disorder), Hyperkalemic disorder, Serum potassium concentration increased above normal, Hyperkalemic syndrome, K excess, K overload, Potassium excess, Hyperkalaemia, Potassium overload, Raised serum potassium level, Hyperpotassaemia, Hyperkalaemic syndrome, Hyperkalemia (disorder), Potassium overload (disorder), Raised serum potassium level (finding), excess; potassium, hyperkalemic; syndrome, overload; potassium, potassium; excess, potassium; overload, syndrome; hyperkalemic, hyperkalaemia
French HYPERKALIEMIE, Hyperpotassémie, HYPERPOTASSEMIE, Hyperkaliémie
German HYPERKALIAEMIE, KALIUMSPIEGEL ERHOEHT, Hyperkaliaemie, Hyperpotassemia, Hyperkaliämie
Portuguese HIPERPOTASSEMIA, HIPERKALIEMIA, Hipercaliemia, Hiperpotassemia
Spanish HIPERPOTASEMIA, Hiperkaliemia, Hipercaliemia, HIPERCALIEMIA, hipercalemia, síndrome hiperpotasémico, hiperkalemia, exceso de K, exceso de potasio, hipercaliemia (trastorno), hipercaliemia, hiperpotasemia, nivel de potasio sérico elevado (hallazgo), nivel de potasio sérico elevado, sobrecarga de potasio (trastorno), sobrecarga de potasio, Hiperpotasemia, Hiperkalemia
Italian Iperkaliemia, Iperpotassemia, Iperpotassiemia
Swedish Hyperkalemi
Japanese コウカリウムケッショウ, コウカリウムケツショウ, 過ポタシウム血症, 高カリウム血症, カリウム過剰血, カリウム過剰血症, 高カリウム血, 高K血症
Finnish Hyperkalemia
Czech Hypekalemie, hyperkalemie, hyperkalémie
Korean 고칼륨혈증
Polish Hiperkaliemia, Hiperpotasemia
Hungarian Hyperpotassaemia, Hyperkalaemia
Norwegian Hyperkalemi
Dutch hyperkaliëmisch; syndroom, kalium; overbelasting, kalium; overmaat, overbelasting; kalium, overmaat; kalium, syndroom; hyperkaliëmisch, hyperkaliëmie, Hyperpotassemie, Hyperkaliëmie, Kaliëmie, hyper-