Sodium and potassium disorders in patients with COPD exacerbation presenting to the emergency department

BMC Emerg Med. 2022 Mar 24;22(1):49. doi: 10.1186/s12873-022-00607-7.


Background: Electrolyte disorders are common in the emergency department. Hyponatremia is known to be associated with adverse outcome in community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). No studies investigating the prevalence and influence of hypernatremia or potassium disorders in patients with AECOPD exist.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort analysis, the prevalence of sodium and potassium disorders was investigated in patients with AECOPD presenting to an emergency department (ED) between January 1st 2017 and December 31st 2018 and compared to all ED patients with electrolyte measurements and patients presenting with CAP. Exclusion criteria were age younger than 18 years, written or verbal withdrawal of consent and outpatient treatment. Additionally, the influence of dysnatremias and dyskalemias on outcome measured by ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation, length of hospital stay, 30-day re-admission, 180-day AECOPD recurrence and in-hospital mortality and their role as predictors of disease severity measured by Pneumonia Severity Index (PSI) were investigated in patients with AECOPD.

Results: Nineteen point nine hundred forty-eight ED consultations with measurements of sodium and potassium were recognized between January 1st 2017 and December 31st 2018 of which 102 patients had AECOPD. Of these 23% had hyponatremia, 5% hypernatremia, 16% hypokalemia and 4% hyperkalemia on admission to the ED. Hypo- and hypernatremia were significantly more common in patients with AECOPD than in the overall ED population: 23 versus 11% (p = 0.001) for hypo- and 5% versus 0.6% (p < 0.001) for hypernatremia. In the logistic regression analysis, no association between the presence of either sodium or potassium disorders and adverse outcome were found.

Conclusion: Dysnatremias and dyskalemias are common in patients with AECOPD with as many as 1 in 5 having hyponatremia and/or hypokalemia. Hypo- and hypernatremia were significantly more common in AECOPD than overall. No significant association was found for dysnatremias, dyskalemias and adverse outcomes in AECOPD.

Keywords: COPD; Electrolyte disorders; Emergency; Potassium; Sodium.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Community-Acquired Infections*
  • Electrolytes
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Hypernatremia* / epidemiology
  • Hypokalemia* / epidemiology
  • Hypokalemia* / etiology
  • Hyponatremia* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia*
  • Potassium
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sodium


  • Electrolytes
  • Sodium
  • Potassium