Hyperkalemia, High Potassium

McClure’s Choice – Treatment for High Potassium

January 28, 2018…….Dr. Jeremiah McClure has recommended another article.

Check out this article about Treatment for Hyperkalemia or high potassium…..

Hyperkalemia, High Potassium

The text of the article is here….


    The treatment of hyperkalemia depends on the magnitude of increase in the plasma potassium concentration and the presence or absence of electrocardiographic changes or neuromuscular symptoms.23 Acute treatment is indicated for marked electrocardiographic changes and severe muscle weakness.

    Intravenous calcium rapidly normalizes membrane excitability by antagonizing the potassium-induced decrease in membrane excitability but does not alter the plasma potassium concentration.

    Insulin lowers the plasma potassium concentration by promoting its entry into cells. To avoid hypoglycemia, 10 units of short-acting insulin should be accompanied by a 50-g infusion of glucose, increased to 60 g if 20 units of insulin are given.24

    Beta-2 receptor agonists produce a similar effect. The shift of potassium into cells with insulin and beta-2-adrenergic receptor stimulation is brought about by increases in sodium-potassium ATPase pump activity, primarily in skeletal muscle cells.

    Sodium bicarbonate, in the absence of acidosis, lowers the plasma potassium concentration only slightly. It should be reserved for hyperkalemic patients who have coexisting metabolic acidosis after the patient has received insulin and glucose, an adrenergic agent, and calcium.

    These acute treatments need to be followed by therapies designed to lower the total body potassium content such as diuretics, potassium-binding drugs, and dialysis.


    Review medicationsOnce the diagnosis of hyperkalemia has been made, the initial approach should be to review the patient’s medications and make every effort to discontinue drugs that can impair renal potassium excretion.16 Patients should be asked about their use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal remedies, since herbs may be a hidden source of dietary potassium.

    Dietary counseling. Patients should be instructed to reduce their dietary intake of potassium and to avoid salt substitutes that contain potassium.

    Reducing the risk of hyperkalemia when using renin-angiotensin-aldostrone system blockers

    Diuretic therapy is beneficial in minimizing hyperkalemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. Thiazide and loop diuretics enhance renal potassium excretion by increasing flow and delivery of sodium to the collecting duct.Thiazide diuretics are effective when the estimated glomerular filtration rate is greater than 30 mL/min, while loop diuretics should be used in patients with more severe renal insufficiency (Table 2).

    Sodium bicarbonate is an effective agent to minimize increases in the plasma potassium concentration in patients with chronic kidney disease and metabolic acidosis.  This drug increases renal potassium excretion by increasing distal sodium delivery and shifts potassium into cells as the acidosis is corrected. The likelihood of developing volume overload as a complication of sodium bicarbonate administration can be minimized with effective diuretic therapy.

    Avoiding hyperkalemia if renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers are needed

    Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers can be problematic, as these drugs cause hyperkalemia, often in the very patients who derive the greatest cardiovascular benefit from them.16 A number of steps can reduce the risk of hyperkalemia and allow these drugs to be used.

    The initial dose should be low and the plasma potassium should be measured within 1 to 2 weeks after drug initiation. If the potassium level is normal, the dose can be titrated upwards with remeasurement of the plasma potassium after each dose titration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     If the plasma potassium concentration rises to 5.5 mmol/L, in some cases lowering the dose will reduce the potassium concentration and allow the patient to remain on the drug.

    In patients at risk of hyperkalemia, angiotensin II receptor blockers  (ARBs) and direct renin inhibitors should be used with the same caution as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEs).

    If the plasma potassium concentration exceeds 5.5 mmol/L despite the above precautions, one can consider using a potassium-binding drug (see below) before deciding to avoid renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers.

    Sodium polystyrene sulfonate (kayexalate) binds potassium in the gastrointestinal tract in exchange for sodium and has been used to manage hyperkalemia. This drug is most commonly given along with sorbitol as a therapy for acute hyperkalemia. Although the drug is widely used, most of the potassium-lowering effect is due to an increase in stool volume caused by sorbitol.25,26 In addition, long-term use is poorly tolerated, and the drug has been linked to gastrointestinal toxicity in rare cases.

    Patiromer and sodium zirconium cyclosilicate are two new potassium-binding drugs that have been shown to be effective in reducing plasma potassium concentration in the setting of ongoing use of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers.

    Patiromer is a nonabsorbed polymer approved for clinical use to treat hyperkalemia. The drug binds potassium in exchange for calcium in the gastrointestinal tract, predominantly in the colon, and lowers the plasma potassium concentration in a dose-dependent manner, with the greatest reduction in those with higher starting values.27,28

    Patiromer effectively controlled plasma potassium concentrations in a 1-year randomized trial in high-risk patients on renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers.29The main adverse events in clinical trials have been constipation and hypomagnesemia, which required magnesium replacement in a small number of patients, but overall, the drug is well tolerated.

    Sodium zirconium cyclosilicate is a nonabsorbed microporous compound that binds potassium in exchange for sodium throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It has been found effective in lowering plasma potassium concentration in a dose-dependent fashion in high-risk patients, most of whom were receiving renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers.30–32 Adverse events were generally comparable to those with placebo in clinical trials; however, edema occurred more frequently when higher doses were used. This drug is not yet approved for clinical use.

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