Hypokalemia and potassium excretion in stroke patients

Salah E. Gariballa, Thompson G. Robinson, Martin D. Fotherby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To determine (1) the prevalence of hypokalemia (plasma potassium ≤ 3.4 mmol/L) in a group of stroke patients in comparison with age- and sex- matched groups of patients having sustained a myocardial infarction or having mild hypertension and (2) the association between plasma potassium concentration and stroke outcome. DESIGN: Observational study. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 421 consecutive stroke patients admitted to a teaching hospital, 150 consecutive patients 50 years or older with myocardial infarction admitted to the hospitals Coronary Care Unit, and 161 out-patients 60 years or older with borderline and established hypertension. MEASUREMENTS: All stroke and cardiac patients had plasma urea and electrolytes estimated within 2 hours of hospital admission; in the hypertensive group blood samples were taken in clinic. Stroke patients had blood pressure, stroke severity (Barthel score) and smoking status recorded. A sub-group of 61 stroke patients and all 79 hypertensive patients not taking antihypertensive medication had 24-hour urine electrolyte excretion measured. Outcome (independent, dependent, or dead) at 3 months post-stroke was established in 349 patients. RESULTS: Hypokalemia occurred more frequently in stroke patients than in patients with myocardial infarction (84 (20%) vs 15 (10%), P = .008) or patients with hypertension (84 (20%) vs 13 (8%), P < .001), even when patients taking diuretics were excluded from analysis (56 (19%) vs 12 (9%) of cardiac group, P = .014 and 56 (19%) vs 4 (5%) of hypertensive group, P = .005, respectively). 24-hour urine excretion of potassium and the potassium: creatinine ratio was lower in stroke patients than in hypertensive patients (41 ± 21 vs 62 ± 25 mmol/24 hour, P = .001, 5.5 ± 2.2 vs 7.4 ± 2.6 mmol/24 hour, P = .001, respectively). On survival analysis, a lower plasma potassium on admission to hospital was associated with an increased chance of death, independent of age, stroke severity, history of hypertension, blood pressure level, or smoking history (hazard ratio 1.73 (95% CI: 1.03 - 2.9) for a 1 mmol/L lower plasma potassium concentration). CONCLUSIONS: Hypokalemia post stroke is common and may be associated with a poor outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1454-1458
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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