Objective: To identify current prescribing and administration practices in relation to intravenous potassium chloride (IV KCl).
Design and setting: A prospective multicentre assessment of IV KCl prescribing and administration at six public hospitals (three large metropolitan hospitals, a smaller metropolitan specialty hospital, and two rural hospitals) in Victoria between August and December 2006. Data were collected for either a 4-week period or for 200 IV KCl orders, whichever occurred first, in clinical areas where concentrated KCl ampoules were available.
Main outcome measures: Number and type of IV KCl prescriptions and dose administrations; method of preparation and administration of each dose.
Results: A total of 888 prescriptions and 1088 administrations were assessed across the six hospitals. There were 69 different types of orders for IV KCl, varying in either concentration or volume. KCl ampoules were used in 59% of all administrations of IV KCl. In instances where the prescription matched an available premixed IV KCl infusion, the premix was used on 89% of occasions.
Conclusions: There is significant variability in the prescribing and administration of IV KCl in these Victorian hospitals. New formulations of premixed IV KCl infusions may enable the removal of ampoules from patient care areas. The medical profession can play a major role in driving the adoption of consistent practice and supporting and leading this important safety initiative.