When is transfer to an intensive care unit indicated in the treatment of hypokalemia (low potassium level)?

Updated: Dec 06, 2018
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Transfer generally is not required unless patients experience untreatable cardiac arrhythmias, digoxin toxicity, or paralysis and no facilities are available for monitoring. In general, even severe hypokalemia can be treated successfully in most medical centers.

Patients with severe or symptomatic hypokalemia require transfer to an intensive care unit for intravenous potassium supplementation and continuous ECG monitoring. Patients should be transferred only after any cardiac arrhythmias have been treated and the condition has been stabilized. Depending on the level of hypokalemia, an advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) ambulance should be used to allow continuous cardiac monitoring during transport.

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