The meaning of hypokalemia in heart failure

Bielecka-Dabrowa, A.; Mikhailidis, D.P.; Jones, L.; Rysz, J.; Aronow, W.S.; Banach, M.

International Journal of Cardiology 158(1): 12-17


ISSN/ISBN: 1874-1754
PMID: 21775000
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2011.06.121
Accession: 036154903

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Maintenance of normal potassium (K(+)) homeostasis has become an increasingly important limiting factor in the therapy of heart failure (HF). With the application of loop diuretics and digoxin, hypokalemia has become a frequent and feared side effect of treatment. Low serum K(+) in HF may be also a marker of increased neurohormonal activity and disease progression. To gain the maximum benefit from treatment, we need to individualize drug use and carefully monitor electrolytes. Symptomatic HF patients (New York Heart Association class III-IV) should be prescribed the lowest dose of diuretic necessary to maintain euvolemia. Mild hypokalemia may be corrected by the use of aldosterone receptor antagonists such as spironolactone or eplerenone. However, a more severe hypokalemia should preferably be corrected using K(+) supplement. Serum K levels should be frequently checked and maintained between 4.0 and 5.5 mEq/l (mmol/l).