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Electrolytes (cont.)

Electrolyte: Potassium (K)

Potassium is most concentrated inside the cells of the body. The gradient, or the difference in concentration from within the cell compared to the plasma, is essential in the generation of the electrical impulses in the body that allow muscles and the brain to function.

Conditions of Potassium Imbalance

Hyperkalemia (hyper=too much + kal=potassium + emia=in the blood) is a potentially life-threatening situation because it causes abnormal electrical conduction in the heart and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems. High potassium levels are most often associated with kidney failure, in which potassium levels build up and cannot be excreted in the urine. Medications can be used to lower potassium levels until the kidneys are able to excrete the excess in the urine. However, emergency dialysis may be required to remove the potassium if kidney function is poor.

Hypokalemia (hypo=too little) is most often seen when the body loses too much potassium from causes like vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and medications like diuretics or laxatives. It is often seen in diabetic ketoacidosis, where potassium is excessively lost in the urine. Since chemicals in the body are related in their metabolism, low magnesium levels can be associated with hypokalemia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/25/2016

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This article describes important principles and specific methods of fluid, electrolyte, and nutrition (FEN) management in newborns, with a special focus on patients with complex fluid and electrolyte requirements, including premature, very low birth weight (VLBW), and extremely low birth weight (ELBW) neonates, as well as patients who have undergone abdominal surgery and those who have sepsis.

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