Hypothermia and hypokalaemia

We all like to treat selected post cardiac arrest patients with hypothermia now, but isn’t hypothermia associated with a drop in potassium, which of course can precipitate pesky ventricular dysrhythmias in patients who would really rather not arrest again. Maybe the hypothermia itself is protective against the dysrhythmias?
A study from the Mayo Clinic updates our knowledge of this area:

METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed potassium variability with Therapeutic Hypothermia (TH) and performed correlative analysis of QT intervals and the incidence of ventricular arrhythmia.
RESULTS: We enrolled 94 sequential patients with OHCA, and serum potassium was followed intensively. The average initial potassium value was 3.9±0.7 mmol/l and decreased to a nadir of 3.2±0.7 mmol/l at 10 h after initiation of cooling (p<0.001). Eleven patients developed sustained polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (PVT) with eight of these occurring during the cooling phase. The corrected QT interval prolonged in relation to the development of hypothermia (p<0.001). Hypokalemia was significantly associated with the development of PVT (p=0.002), with this arrhythmia being most likely to develop in patients with serum potassium values of less than 2.5 mmol/l (p=0.002). Rebound hyperkalemia did not reach concerning levels (maximum 4.26±0.8 mmol/l at 40 h) and was not associated with the occurrence of ventricular arrhythmia. Furthermore, repletion of serum potassium did not correlate with the development of ventricular arrhythmia.
CONCLUSIONS: Therapeutic hypothermia is associated with a significant decline in serum potassium during cooling. Hypothermic core temperatures do not appear to protect against ventricular arrhythmia in the context of severe hypokalemia and cautious supplementation to maintain potassium at 3.0 mmol/l appears to be both safe and effective.
Hypokalemia during the cooling phase of therapeutic hypothermia and its impact on arrhythmogenesis
Resuscitation. 2010 Dec;81(12):1632-6

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