Potassium levels and AMI death

An association is demonstrated between abnormal (both high and low) serum potassium levels and in-hospital mortality in patients with acute myocardial infarction. These findings do not necessarily imply a causal relationship, since abnormal potassium levels might be a marker of increased risk of death due to other illness factors rather than a risk of death per se.

Acknowledging that a randomised trial of potassium replacement is unlikely to happen, the authors pragmatically advise:

Our data suggest that the optimal range of serum potassium levels in AMI patients may be between 3.5 and 4.5 mEq/L and that potassium levels of greater than 4.5 mEq/L are associated with increased mortality and should probably be avoided.

Context Clinical practice guidelines recommend maintaining serum potassium levels between 4.0 and 5.0 mEq/L in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). These guidelines are based on small studies that associated low potassium levels with ventricular arrhythmias in the pre−β-blocker and prereperfusion era. Current studies examining the relationship between potassium levels and mortality in AMI patients are lacking.

Objective To determine the relationship between serum potassium levels and in-hospital mortality in AMI patients in the era of β-blocker and reperfusion therapy.

Design, Setting, and Patients Retrospective cohort study using the Cerner Health Facts database, which included 38 689 patients with biomarker-confirmed AMI, admitted to 67 US hospitals between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2008. All patients had in-hospital serum potassium measurements and were categorized by mean postadmission serum potassium level (<3.0, 3.0-<3.5, 3.5-<4.0, 4.0-<4.5, 4.5-<5.0, 5.0-<5.5, and ≥5.5 mEq/L). Hierarchical logistic regression was used to determine the association between potassium levels and outcomes after adjusting for patient- and hospital-level factors.

Main Outcome Measures All-cause in-hospital mortality and the composite of ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest.

Results There was a U-shaped relationship between mean postadmission serum potassium level and in-hospital mortality that persisted after multivariable adjustment. Compared with the reference group of 3.5 to less than 4.0 mEq/L (mortality rate, 4.8%; 95% CI, 4.4%-5.2%), mortality was comparable for mean postadmission potassium of 4.0 to less than 4.5 mEq/L (5.0%; 95% CI, 4.7%-5.3%), multivariable-adjusted odds ratio (OR), 1.19 (95% CI, 1.04-1.36). Mortality was twice as great for potassium of 4.5 to less than 5.0 mEq/L (10.0%; 95% CI, 9.1%-10.9%; multivariable-adjusted OR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.68-2.36), and even greater for higher potassium strata. Similarly, mortality rates were higher for potassium levels of less than 3.5 mEq/L. In contrast, rates of ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest were higher only among patients with potassium levels of less than 3.0 mEq/L and at levels of 5.0 mEq/L or greater.

Conclusion Among inpatients with AMI, the lowest mortality was observed in those with postadmission serum potassium levels between 3.5 and <4.5 mEq/L compared with those who had higher or lower potassium levels.

Serum Potassium Levels and Mortality in Acute Myocardial Infarction
JAMA Jan 11 2012,307(2):115-213

One thought on “Potassium levels and AMI death”

  1. I wonder if this is going to give rise to a ‘tight kalaemic’ control in critically ill patients, similar to the van de Berghe study for glucose?
    (that may later get dismissed because of too many episodes of hypokalaemia similar to the Nice-Sugar study!)

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