Background: Hypokalemia is a risk factor for drug-induced QT prolongation. Larger serum-to-dialysate potassium gradients during hemodialysis (HD) may augment the proarrhythmic risks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Methods: We conducted a cohort study using 2007-2017 data from the United States Renal Data System and a large dialysis provider to examine if the serum-to-dialysate potassium gradient modifies SSRI cardiac safety. Using a new-user design, we compared 1-year sudden cardiac death (SCD) risk among HD patients newly treated with higher (citalopram, escitalopram) versus lower (fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline) QT-prolonging potential SSRIs, overall and stratified by baseline potassium gradient (≥4 versus <4 mEq/l). We used inverse probability of treatment-weighted survival models to estimate weighted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) and conducted a confirmatory nested case-control study.
Results: The study included 25 099 patients: 11 107 (44.3%) higher QT-prolonging potential SSRI new users and 13 992 (55.7%) lower QT-prolonging potential SSRI new users. Overall, higher versus lower QT-prolonging potential SSRI use was not associated with SCD [weighted HR 1.03 (95% CI 0.86-1.24)]. However, a greater risk of SCD was associated with higher versus lower QT-prolonging potential SSRI use among patients with baseline potassium gradients ≥4 mEq/l but not among those with gradients <4 mEq/l [weighted HR 2.17 (95% CI 1.16-4.03) versus 0.95 (0.78-1.16)]. Nested case-control analyses yielded analogous results.
Conclusions: The serum-to-dialysate potassium gradient may modify the association between higher versus lower QT-prolonging SSRI use and SCD among people receiving HD. Minimizing the potassium gradient in the setting of QT-prolonging medication use may be warranted.
Keywords: SSRI; USRDS; hemodialysis; potassium gradient; sudden cardiac death.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the ERA.