Background: Hyperkalemia is a potential threat to patient safety in chronic kidney disease (CKD). This study determined the incidence of hyperkalemia in CKD and whether it is associated with excess mortality.
Methods: This retrospective analysis of a national cohort comprised 2 103 422 records from 245 808 veterans with at least 1 hospitalization and at least 1 inpatient or outpatient serum potassium record during the fiscal year 2005. Chronic kidney disease and treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and/or angiotensin II receptor blockers (blockers of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system [RAAS]) were the key predictors of hyperkalemia. Death within 1 day of a hyperkalemic event was the principal outcome.
Results: Of the 66 259 hyperkalemic events (3.2% of records), more occurred as inpatient events (n = 34 937 [52.7%]) than as outpatient events (n = 31 322 [47.3%]). The adjusted rate of hyperkalemia was higher in patients with CKD than in those without CKD among individuals treated with RAAS blockers (7.67 vs 2.30 per 100 patient-months; P < .001) and those without RAAS blocker treatment (8.22 vs 1.77 per 100 patient-months; P < .001). The adjusted odds ratio (OR) of death with a moderate (potassium, >or=5.5 and <6.0 mEq/L [to convert to mmol/L, multiply by 1.0]) and severe (potassium, >or=6.0 mEq/L) hyperkalemic event was highest with no CKD (OR, 10.32 and 31.64, respectively) vs stage 3 (OR, 5.35 and 19.52, respectively), stage 4 (OR, 5.73 and 11.56, respectively), or stage 5 (OR, 2.31 and 8.02, respectively) CKD, with all P < .001 vs normokalemia and no CKD.
Conclusions: The risk of hyperkalemia is increased with CKD, and its occurrence increases the odds of mortality within 1 day of the event. These findings underscore the importance of this metabolic disturbance as a threat to patient safety in CKD.