Enteral potassium supplementation in a pediatric cardiac intensive care unit: evaluation of a practice change

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2011 Sep;12(5):552-4. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3182076ab4.


Background: Potassium supplementation is a common practice in critically ill children, especially those with heart disease. Intravenous potassium supplementation is the standard route of administration in most intensive care units. Although the enteral route is safer and thus may be a reasonable alternative, data on the efficacy of enteral potassium administration are lacking.

Methods: A change of practice to encourage use of enteral potassium was instituted in the cardiac intensive care unit at Texas Children's Hospital, and a review of this practice change was undertaken. The primary outcome of interest was the comparable efficacy of enteral and intravenous potassium administration. Patient demographic data, including urine output, diuretic use, route of potassium administration, and adverse events were documented and analyzed.

Results: Seventy-six patients met inclusion criteria and received 399 bolus doses of potassium (166 intravenous and 233 enteral). No patients became hyperkalemic after either route of administration. The increase in serum potassium was similar in both groups of patients. Side effects of the two routes of administration were not different.

Conclusions: The efficacy of enteral potassium is comparable to intravenous potassium for potassium replacement in pediatric patients after congenital heart surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements
  • Enteral Nutrition / standards*
  • Heart Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Potassium / administration & dosage*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Texas
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Potassium