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Pseudohyperkalemia in serum: the phenomenon and its clinical magnitude.

We investigated in detail the difference between serum and plasma potassium levels in patients with several conditions associated with pseudohyperkalemia. In total, 435 patients with either thrombocytoses, erythrocytoses, leucocytoses, or a mixed-type disorder and 30 healthy controls were included. In each case, the index Dk [serum potassium minus plasma potassium] and the index Dk100 (Dk x 100,000/platelets), which indicates the Dk value that corresponds to platelets of 100,000/mm(3), were estimated. Median Dk was significantly higher in the groups with platelet, erythrocyte, or mixed-type disorders than in the controls (P=0.001). Among these groups, Dk values were significantly higher in patients with thrombocytosis or mixed-type disorders compared with those with erythrocytosis (P<0.001, for both). Furthermore, no significant difference was observed in Dk values between controls and patients with white blood cell disorders (P=0.74). Dk values did not exceed 2.61 mmol/L, whereas Dk100 values were inversely related to platelet counts (r=-0.351, P<0.01). In conclusion, pseudohyperkalemia is mainly present in patients with thrombocytosis or mixed-type disorders, probably as a result of the degranulation of platelets, which offers a potassium load to the surrounding plasma at the time of clot formation in vitro. However, the degree of pseudohyperkalemia does not increase proportionally with the increase of platelet counts, which may be associated with transfer of part of potassium load from the plasma back into red and white blood cells.

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