What is metabolic acidosis?

Updated: Aug 18, 2020
  • Author: Bret A Nicks, MD, MHA; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Answer

Answer

Metabolic acidosis is defined as a state of decreased systemic pH resulting from either a primary increase in hydrogen ion (H+) or a reduction in bicarbonate (HCO3-) concentrations. In the acute state, respiratory compensation of acidosis occurs by hyperventilation resulting in a relative reduction in PaCO2. Chronically, renal compensation occurs by means of reabsorption of HCO3. [1, 2]

Acidosis arises from an increased production of acids, a loss of alkali, or a decreased renal excretion of acids. The underlying etiology of metabolic acidosis is classically categorized into those that cause an elevated anion gap (AG) (see the Anion Gap calculator) and those that do not. Lactic acidosis, identified by a state of acidosis and an elevated plasma lactate concentration is one type of anion gap metabolic acidosis and may result from numerous conditions. [2, 5, 6]  It remains the most common cause of metabolic acidosis in hospitalized patients.


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