Causes

Decreased potassium intake can be caused by decreased intake, transcellular shifts, nonrenal loss, and renal loss. Situations that lead to decreased intake include anorexia, fad diets, prolonged periods without oral intake (NPO), and prolonged intravenous therapy without potassium. Abnormal movement of potassium from ECF to ICF can be caused by alkalosis, hyperalimentation, hyper-insulinism, and transfusion of frozen red blood cells, which are low in potassium.

Increased nonrenal loss occurs from prolonged use of digitalis or corticosteroids; laxative abuse; excessive vomiting or diarrhea; excessive diaphoresis; excessive wound drainage (especially gastrointestinal); and prolonged nasogastric suctioning. Renal excretion can be caused by inappropriate or prolonged use of potassium-wasting diuretics, such as acetazolamide, ethacrynic acid, furosemide, bumetanide, and thiazides; diuresis phase after severe bodily burns; increased secretion of aldosterone as in Cushing's syndrome; and renal disease that has impaired reabsorption of potassium.

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