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Pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of hyperkalemia.

Hyperkalemia is a potentially life-threatening condition in which serum potassium exceeds 5.5 mmol/l. It can be caused by reduced renal excretion, excessive intake or leakage of potassium from the intracellular space. In addition to acute and chronic renal failure, hypoaldosteronism, and massive tissue breakdown as in rhabdomyolysis, are typical conditions leading to hyperkalemia. Symptoms are non-specific and predominantly related to muscular or cardiac dysfunction. Treatment has to be initiated immediately using different therapeutic strategies to increase potassium shift into the intracellular space or to increase elimination, together with reduction of intake. Knowledge of the physiological mechanisms of potassium handling is essential in understanding the causes of hyperkalemia as well as its treatment. This article reviews the pathomechanisms leading to hyperkalemic states, its symptoms, and different treatment options.

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