In this episode, we review the management of a patient with hypokalemia, including both inpatient and outpatient supplementation with potassium chloride supplements and what dosage forms are available for potassium repletion.
- Most diets will provide sufficient potassium to avoid hypokalemia. Hypokalemia usually occurs due to drug therapy (such as diuretics) or GI losses from severe vomiting or diarrhea.
- In patients with chronically low potassium, supplements are dosed to increase dietary intake of potassium by about 20-40 mEq per day. For acute repletion, 10 mEq of potassium should increase serum potassium by about 0.1 mEq/L.
- Over-the-counter potassium (as potassium gluconate) contains a very small amount of potassium (2.5 mEq). Potassium chloride powders and liquids (like salt substitutes) taste terrible and are poorly tolerated. Most patients will replete potassium via slow-release tablets (Klor-Con or Klor-Con M) or via potassium chloride IV infusions.
- Most IV fluids do not contain any potassium at all (or very little potassium). Patients receiving these IV fluids who are NPO will eventually become hypokalemic. Certain maintenance fluids do contain potassium – most patients will receive about 40 mEq of potassium per day with these IV fluids.