The effect of adrenergic blockade on potassium concentrations in different conditions

Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1983:672:121-6. doi: 10.1111/j.0954-6820.1983.tb01624.x.


A moderate increase in serum potassium concentrations has been observed in several controlled clinical trials with beta-blockers. This increase cannot be explained by the retention of potassium in the organism, and is probably caused by the redistribution of potassium from intracellular to extracellular compartments. beta-adrenergic mechanisms seem to be concerned in the extrarenal handling of the potassium-load in man, presumably by inducing an increased uptake of potassium in muscular cells and liver cells. These beta-adrenergic mechanisms are probably of the beta 2-type. In theory there are several conditions in which it is important to have a defence against hyperkalaemia from exogenous or endogenous sources for example, during heavy physical exercise, after a potassium-rich meal, or after traumatic tissue damage. Available data indicate that non-selective beta-blockade increases serum potassium concentrations during and after heavy exercise and during coronary bypass. The clinical implications of these findings are unknown.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Aldosterone / blood
  • Animals
  • Epinephrine
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Pindolol / therapeutic use
  • Potassium / blood*
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use
  • Renin / blood


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Aldosterone
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Propranolol
  • Pindolol
  • Renin
  • Potassium
  • Epinephrine