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Hypokalemia-induced renal dysfunction

Richard H Sterns, MD
Section Editor
Michael Emmett, MD
Deputy Editor
John P Forman, MD, MSc


Hypokalemia, especially if persistent, can induce a variety of changes in renal function, impairing tubular transport and possibly inducing chronic tubulointerstitial disease and cyst formation [1-6]. One function that is not impaired is the ability to appropriately conserve potassium, which can be important in distinguishing between extrarenal and renal sources of potassium loss when the cause of hypokalemia is not clear [4]. (See 'Renal potassium conservation' below and "Evaluation of the adult patient with hypokalemia", section on 'Assessment of urinary potassium excretion'.)


The following renal abnormalities, most of which are reversible with potassium repletion, can be induced by hypokalemia [3]:

Impaired urinary concentrating ability

Intracellular acidosis

Increased ammonia production

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 04, 2016.
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