Serum Potassium

Definition
  • Is the chemical element with the symbol K (for latin word “Kalium”)
  • Is important in neuron (brain and nerve) function, and in influencing osmotic balance between cells and the interstitial fluid
  • Is also important in preventing muscle contraction and the sending of all nerve impulses in animals through action potentials
  • Normal serum potassium levels are between 3.5 to 5.0 mEq/L
Normal Values

The normal range is 3.7 to 5.2 mEq/L.

Note: mEq/L = milliequivalent per liter

Normal results may vary from lab to lab.

Hypokalemia
  • refers to the condition in which the concentration of potassium (K+) in the blood is low
Causes of Hypokalemia
  1. Inadequate potassium intake
  2. Diarrhea, excessive perspiration, or losses associated with surgical procedures
  3. Diuretics
Signs and Symptoms of Hypokalemia
  1. Muscular weakness
  2. Myalgia
  3. Muscle cramps (owing to disturbed function of the skeletal muscles)
  4. Constipation
  5. Flaccid paralysis
  6. Hyporeflexia
  7. Flattened or inverted T waves, a U wave, ST depression and a wide QT interval
Nursing Interventions for Hypokalemia
  1. Eating potassium-containing foods may be recommended, such as leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, citrus fruits, oranges or bananas
  2. Intravenous Supplementation (such as Rapid Potassium Replacement)
  3. Potassium Supplement
Hyperkalemia
  • refers to the condition in which the concentration of the electrolyte potassium (K+) in the blood is elevated
  • extreme hyperkalemia is a medical emergency due to the risk of potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
Causes of Hyperkalemia
  • Renal insufficiency
  • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics (e.g. amiloride and spironolactone)
  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or celecoxib
  • Excessive intake of potassium supplement
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperkalemia
  1. Malaise
  2. Palpitations
  3. Muscle weakness
  4. Cardiac arrhythmia or sudden death
Nursing Interventions for Hyperkalemia
  1. Monitor Intake and Output
  2. Discuss the importance of avoiding foods high in potassium to prevent or control hyperkalemia
  3. Teach causes of hyperkalemia and the relationship between hemodialysis and hyperkalemia.
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