Hypokalemia is frequent and has prognostic implications in stable patients attending the emergency department

Link to article at PubMed

PLoS One. 2020 Aug 4;15(8):e0236934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236934. eCollection 2020.


BACKGROUND: Potassium disturbances are associated with adverse prognosis in patients with chronic conditions. Its prognostic implications in stable patients attending the emergency department (ED) is poorly described.

AIMS: This study aimed to assess the prevalence of dyskalemia, describe its predisposing factors and prognostic associations in a population presenting the ED without unstable medical illness.

METHODS: Post-hoc analysis of a prospective, cross-sectional, multicenter study in the ED of 11 French academic hospitals over a period of 8 weeks. All adults presenting to the ED during this period were included, except instances of self-drug poisoning, inability to complete self-medication questionnaire, presence of an unstable medical illness and decline to participate in the study. All-cause hospitalization or deaths were assessed.

RESULTS: A total of 1242 patients were included. The mean age was 57.2±22.3 years, 51% were female. The distribution according to potassium concentrations was: hypokalemia<4mmol/L(n = 620, 49.9%), normokalemia 4-5mmol/L(n = 549, 44.2%) and hyperkalemia >5mmol/L(n = 73, 0,6%). The proportion of patients with a kalemia<3.5mmol/L was 8% (n = 101). Renal insufficiency (OR [95% CI] = 3.56[1.94-6.52], p-value <0.001) and hemoglobin <12g/dl (OR [95% CI] = 2.62[1.50-4.60], p-value = 0.001) were associated with hyperkalemia. Female sex (OR [95% CI] = 1.31[1.03-1.66], p-value = 0.029), age <45years (OR [95% CI] = 1.69 [1.20-2.37], p-value = 0.002) and the use of thiazide diuretics (OR [95% CI] = 2.04 [1.28-3.32], p-value = 0.003), were associated with hypokalemia<4mmol/l. Two patients died in the ED and 629 (52.7%) were hospitalized. Hypokalemia <3.5mmol/L was independently associated with increased odds of hospitalization or death (OR [95% CI] = 1.47 [1.00-2.15], p-value = 0.048).

CONCLUSIONS: Hypokalemia is frequently found in the ED and was associated with worse outcomes in a low-risk ED population.

PMID:32750075 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0236934

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