What is the inpatient treatment for hypokalemia (low potassium level)?

Updated: Dec 06, 2018
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Answer

Inpatient care includes monitoring serum potassium levels every 1-3 hours and adjusting supplement doses as necessary. Recall that potassium can shift in and out of cells under several influences. Therefore, several determinations of serum potassium level after presumably adequate replacement are indicated to ensure that serum potassium levels achieve normalcy.

After potassium has been replenished, checking again for several days to determine whether potassium has stabilized or has started falling again is equally important. For example, if an individual presents with nausea, vomiting, and hypokalemia, the physician might understandably attribute the hypokalemia to the nausea and vomiting. However, if after replenishment the patient once again develops hypokalemia without nausea and vomiting, then considering other possible causes of hypokalemia is necessary.

Additionally, if a need for ongoing potassium supplementation is anticipated for the patient (eg, a patient on long-term diuresis for hypertension), then ensuring that the prescribed daily potassium supplement is adequate to maintain a normal serum potassium level is important.


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