Abnormalities of serum potassium concentration in dialysis-associated hyperglycemia and their correction with insulin: review of published reports

Int Urol Nephrol. 2011 Jun;43(2):451-9. doi: 10.1007/s11255-010-9830-8. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


The main difference between dialysis-associated hyperglycemia (DH) and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or nonketotic hyperglycemia (NKH) occurring in patients with preserved renal function is the absence of osmotic diuresis in DH, which eliminates the need for large fluid and solute (including potassium) replacement. We analyzed published reports of serum potassium (K(+)) abnormalities and their treatment in DH. Hyperkalemia was often present at presentation of DH with higher frequency and severity than in hyperglycemic syndromes in patients with preserved renal function. The frequency and severity of hyperkalemia were higher in DH episodes with DKA than those with NKH in both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. For DKA, the frequency and severity of hyperkalemia were similar in hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. For NKH, hyperkalemia was more severe and frequent in hemodialysis than in peritoneal dialysis. Insulin infusion corrected the hyperkalemia of DH in most cases. Additional measures for the management of hyperkalemia or modest potassium infusions for hypokalemia were needed in a few DH episodes. The predictors of the decrease in serum K(+) during treatment of DH with insulin included the starting serum K(+) level, the decreases in serum values of glucose concentration and tonicity, and the increase in serum total carbon dioxide level. DH represents a risk factor for hyperkalemia. Insulin infusion is the only treatment for hyperkalemia usually required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood*
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy
  • Hyperglycemia / etiology
  • Hyperkalemia / blood*
  • Hyperkalemia / drug therapy*
  • Hyperkalemia / etiology
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Ketosis / blood
  • Ketosis / etiology
  • Potassium / blood*
  • Renal Dialysis* / adverse effects


  • Insulin
  • Potassium