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Hypokalemia and Clinical Implications in Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

By Dong Chen, Xiaokun Li, Qifa Song, Chenchan Hu, Feifei Su, Jianyi Dai, Yinghai Ye, Jianping Huang, Xiaoming Zhang

Posted 29 Feb 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.27.20028530

BACKGROUNDSARS-CoV-2 has caused a series of COVID-19 globally. SARS-CoV-2 binds angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) of renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and causes prevalent hypokalemia METHODSThe patients with COVID-19 were classified into severe hypokalemia, hypokalemia, and normokalemia group. The study aimed to determine the relationship between hypokalemia and clinical features, the underlying causes and clinical implications of hypokalemia. RESULTSBy Feb 15, 2020, 175 patients with COVID-19 (92 women and 83 men; median age, 46 [IQR, 34-54] years) were admitted to hospital in Wenzhou, China, consisting 39 severe hypokalemia-, 69 hypokalemia-, and 67 normokalemia patients. Gastrointestinal symptoms were not associated with hypokalemia among 108 hypokalemia patients (P > 0.05). Body temperature, CK, CK-MB, LDH, and CRP were significantly associated with the severity of hypokalemia (P<0.01). 93% of severe and critically ill patients had hypokalemia which was most common among elevated CK, CK-MB, LDH, and CRP. Urine K+ loss was the primary cause of hypokalemia. 1 severe hypokalemia patients was given 3 g/day, adding up to an average of 34 (SD=4) g potassium during hospital stay. The exciting finding was that patients responded well to K+ supplements when they were inclined to recovery. CONCLUSIONSHypokalemia is prevailing in patients with COVID-19. The correction of hypokalemia is challenging because of continuous renal K+ loss resulting from the degradation of ACE2. The end of urine K+ loss indicates a good prognosis and may be a reliable, in-time, and sensitive biomarker directly reflecting the end of adverse effect on RAS system.

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