Why Is Potassium Given In Dka?

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Severe Hyperkalaemia In Association With Diabetic Ketoacidosis In A Patient Presenting With Severe Generalized Muscle Weakness

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an acute, life‐threatening metabolic complication of diabetes mellitus. Hyperglycaemia, ketosis (ketonaemia or ketonuria) and acidosis are the cardinal features of DKA [1]. Other features that indicate the severity of DKA include volume depletion, acidosis and concurrent electrolyte disturbances, especially abnormalities of potassium homeostasis [1,2]. We describe a type 2 diabetic patient presenting with severe generalized muscle weakness and electrocardiographic evidence of severe hyperkalaemia in association with DKA and discuss the related pathophysiology. A 65‐year‐old male was admitted because of impaired mental status. He was a known insulin‐treated diabetic on quinapril (20 mg once daily) and was taking oral ampicillin 500 mg/day because of dysuria which had started 5 days prior to admission. He was disoriented in place and time with severe generalized muscle weakness; he was apyrexial (temperature 36.4°C), tachycardic (120 beats/min) and tachypneic (25 respirations/min) with cold extremities (supine blood pressure was 100/60 mmHg). An electrocardiogram (ECG) showed absent P waves, widening of QRS (‘sine wave’ in leads I, II, V5 a Continue reading >>

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  1. metalmd06

    Does acute DKA cause hyperkalemia, or is the potassium normal or low due to osmotic diuresis? I get the acute affect of metabolic acidosis on potassium (K+ shifts from intracellular to extracellular compartments). According to MedEssentials, the initial response (<24 hours) is increased serum potassium. The chronic effect occuring within 24 hours is a compensatory increase in Aldosterone that normalizes or ultimatley decreases the serum K+. Then it says on another page that because of osmotic diuresis, there is K+ wasting with DKA. On top of that, I had a question about a diabetic patient in DKA with signs of hyperkalemia. Needless to say, I'm a bit confused. Any help is appreciated.

  2. FutureDoc4

    I remember this being a tricky point:
    1) DKA leads to a decreased TOTAL body K+ (due to diuresis) (increase urine flow, increase K+ loss)
    2) Like you said, during DKA, acidosis causes an exchange of H+/K+ leading to hyperkalemia.
    So, TOTAL body K+ is low, but the patient presents with hyperkalemia. Why is this important? Give, insulin, pushes the K+ back into the cells and can quickly precipitate hypokalemia and (which we all know is bad). Hope that is helpful.

  3. Cooolguy

    DKA-->Anion gap M. Acidosis-->K+ shift to extracellular component--> hyperkalemia-->symptoms and signs
    DKA--> increased osmoles-->Osmotic diuresis-->loss of K+ in urine-->decreased total body K+ (because more has been seeped from the cells)
    --dont confuse total body K+ with EC K+
    Note: osmotic diuresis also causes polyuria, ketonuria, glycosuria, and loss of Na+ in urine--> Hyponatremia
    DKA tx: Insulin (helps put K+ back into cells), and K+ (to replenish the low total potassium
    Hope it helps

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