Adverse reactions associated with parenteral beta agonists: serum potassium changes

N Engl Reg Allergy Proc. 1987 Sep-Oct;8(5):317-21. doi: 10.2500/108854187779023514.


Beta adrenergic agonists can lower serum potassium levels predominantly when they are administered by the parenteral route. Hypokalemia has been demonstrated with the use of albuterol given by the intramuscular, intravenous and subcutaneous (SC) routes as well as with SC epinephrine. The effect appears to be dose related. Certain patients might be at increased risk who are on medications that tend to lower potassium such as corticosteroids, theophylline, diuretics or digoxin. Further studies should be encouraged on the hypokalemic effect of all forms of beta agonists in view of their possible contribution toward arrhythmias and asthma deaths.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Airway Resistance / drug effects
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage
  • Epinephrine / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypokalemia / chemically induced*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / blood*


  • Albuterol
  • Potassium
  • Epinephrine