What is metabolic acidosis?

Updated: Aug 20, 2020
  • Author: Antonia Quinn, DO; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Answer

Metabolic acidosis is a clinical disturbance characterized by an increase in plasma acidity. Metabolic acidosis should be considered a sign of an underlying disease process. Identification of this underlying condition is essential to initiate appropriate therapy. [1]  The initial therapeutic goal for patients with severe acidemia is to raise the systemic pH above 7.1-7.2, a level at which dysrhythmias become less likely and cardiac contractility and responsiveness to catecholamines will be restored. [2, 3]

This article discusses the differential diagnosis of metabolic acidosis and presents a scheme for identifying the underlying cause of acidosis by using laboratory tests that are available in the emergency department. Clinical strategies for treating metabolic acidosis are also reviewed.


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