Blood Potassium Level (Kalemia)
|Why is this test performed?||This test is used to diagnose or monitor potassium levels. It is routinely performed in patients with high blood pressure, certain heart problems and kidney disease. It may also be ordered in elderly patients and is used to monitor the effects of certain medications.|
|How to prepare:||
|Related Tests:||Usually, other electrolytes, such as sodium and chloride, are measured at the same time as part of a complete electrolyte panel.|
Potassium is a positively charged ion (called a cation) found in the blood and cells. It plays many important roles in the body. It is in charge of keeping cells electrically neutral. Variations in potassium levels will result in changes in heart rhythm, muscle contraction and nerve conduction. A sudden change is more dangerous than chronically abnormal levels. Several mechanisms involving hormones and other blood electrolytes (such as chloride and sodium) keep tight control over potassium levels. Among other things, potassium levels provide information on kidney function and the cause of certain arrhythmias.
High potassium levels (hyperkalemia) may be the result of:
- advanced age;
- heart failure;
- renal insufficiency.
The use of certain drugs:
- Anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen (Advil®), diclofenac (Voltaren®, etc.))
- Angiotensin receptor antagonists (losartan (Cozaar®), candesartan (Atacand®))
- Certain potassium-sparing diuretics (amiloride, triamterene)
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ramipril (Altace®), perindopril (Coversyl®))
- Spironolactone (Aldactone®)
- Potassium supplements (K-Dur®)
- Trimetoprim (Proloprim®)
Low levels of potassium (hypokalemia) may be the result of:
Decreased absorption due to:
- Poor diet or malnutrition
- Eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia)
Increased excretion due to:
- Severe and prolonged vomiting
- Laxative abuse
- Bowel fistulas
- Cushing's syndrome
An internal cause or illness:
- Chronic heart failure
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
The use of certain drugs:
- Amphotericin B
- Certain diuretics (ex. hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril®), furosemide (Lasix®))
- Salbutamol and certain other medications for asthma
Factors that can interfere with test accuracy
Poor blood collection techniques, which include prolonged tourniquet application and a lengthy delay between sample-taking and analysis, may affect test results.
What you need to know before the test
Before going for blood tests, a procedure or other exam, it is best to always bring a list of all the drugs you take (prescription, OTC and natural health products). Unless told otherwise, you should take your medication as usual on the day of the test. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist for more information.
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.