Management of hyperkalemia in patients with kidney disease: a position paper endorsed by the Italian Society of Nephrology

J Nephrol. 2019 Aug;32(4):499-516. doi: 10.1007/s40620-019-00617-y. Epub 2019 May 22.


Hyperkalemia (HK) is the most common electrolyte disturbance observed in patients with kidney disease, particularly in those in whom diabetes and heart failure are present or are on treatment with renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors (RAASIs). HK is recognised as a major risk of potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmic complications. When an acute reduction of renal function manifests, both in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and in those with previously normal renal function, HK is the main indication for the execution of urgent medical treatment and the recourse to extracorporeal replacement therapies. In patients with end-stage renal disease, the presence of HK not responsive to medical therapy is an indication at the beginning of chronic renal replacement therapy. HK can also be associated indirectly with the progression of CKD, because the finding of high potassium values leads to withdrawal of treatment with RAASIs, which constitute the first choice nephro-protective treatment. It is therefore essential to identify patients at risk of developing HK, and to implement therapeutic interventions aimed at preventing and treating this dangerous complication of kidney disease. Current strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of HK are still unsatisfactory, as evidenced by the relatively high prevalence of HK also in patients under stable nephrology care, and even in the ideal setting of randomized clinical trials where optimal treatment and monitoring are mandatory. This position paper will review the main therapeutic interventions to be implemented for the prevention, detection and treatment of HK in patients with CKD on conservative care, in those on dialysis, in patients in whom renal disease is associated with diabetes, heart failure, resistant hypertension and who are on treatment with RAASIs, and finally in those presenting with severe acute HK.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; Chronic kidney disease; Hyperkalemia; Renin–angiotensin–aldosterone inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Coronary Vasospasm / complications
  • Coronary Vasospasm / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Complications / complications
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Humans
  • Hyperkalemia / diagnosis
  • Hyperkalemia / etiology
  • Hyperkalemia / prevention & control
  • Hyperkalemia / therapy*
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Potassium / blood
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy*


  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Potassium

Supplementary concepts

  • Hypertension Resistant to Conventional Therapy