Urine Potassium Excretion, Kidney Failure, and Mortality in CKD

Am J Kidney Dis. 2017 Mar;69(3):341-349. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2016.03.431. Epub 2016 May 24.


Background: Low urine potassium excretion, as a surrogate for dietary potassium intake, is associated with higher risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease in a general population. Few studies have investigated the relationship of urine potassium with clinical outcomes in chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Study design: Longitudinal cohort study.

Setting & participants: The MDRD (Modification of Diet in Renal Disease) Study was a randomized controlled trial (N = 840) conducted in 1989 to 1993 to examine the effects of blood pressure control and dietary protein restriction on kidney disease progression in adults aged 18 to 70 years with CKD stages 2 to 4. This post hoc analysis included 812 participants.

Predictor: The primary predictor variable was 24-hour urine potassium excretion, measured at baseline and at multiple time points (presented as time-updated average urine potassium excretion).

Outcomes: Kidney failure, defined as initiation of dialysis therapy or transplantation, was determined from US Renal Data System data. All-cause mortality was assessed using the National Death Index.

Results: Median follow-up for kidney failure was 6.1 (IQR, 3.5-11.7) years, with 9 events/100 patient-years. Median all-cause mortality follow-up was 19.2 (IQR, 10.8-20.6) years, with 3 deaths/100 patient-years. Baseline mean urine potassium excretion was 2.39±0.89 (SD) g/d. Each 1-SD higher baseline urine potassium level was associated with an adjusted HR of 0.95 (95% CI, 0.87-1.04) for kidney failure and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.74-0.94) for all-cause mortality. Results were consistent using time-updated average urine potassium measurements.

Limitations: Analyses were performed using urine potassium excretion as a surrogate for dietary potassium intake. Results are obtained from a primarily young, nondiabetic, and advanced CKD population and may not be generalizable to the general CKD population.

Conclusions: Higher urine potassium excretion was associated with lower risk for all-cause mortality, but not kidney failure.

Keywords: Urine potassium; all-cause mortality; chronic kidney disease (CKD); dietary potassium intake; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); kidney failure; modifiable risk factor; potassium excretion.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / urine*
  • Renal Insufficiency / etiology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / mortality*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / urine*


  • Potassium