Hyperkalemia: Disorders of Internal and External Potassium Balance

Mark E. Williams*, Robert M. Rosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The serum potassium level is normally preserved de spite changes in potassium intake and output (the exter nal potassium balance) and changes in its distribution in the body (the internal potassium balance). External potassium homeostasis depends primarily on renal ex cretion of the daily exogenous potassium burden. Inter nal homeostasis depends on the extrarenal regulation of potassium. Skeletal muscle and liver are the dominant sites of that regulation. The two chief regulators of inter nal balance are insulin and catecholamines, the latter acting through β-adrenergic receptors. Acid-base bal ance and the cellular potassium content are other important regulators of internal balance. The major disorders of external balance are renal failure, hypo reninemic hypoaldosteronism, interstitial nephritis, and a variety of drugs that impair renal potassium excretion. The major disorders of internal balance are diabetes mellitus, acidosis, medications, and release of endoge nous potassium during vigorous exercise, traumatic muscle injury, or tumor lysis chemotherapy. These dis orders frequently result in troublesome elevations of serum potassium in the intensive care setting. Their re view in this article includes a thorough discussion of the evaluation and proper management of the hyperkalemic patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-64
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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