Hyperkalaemia is a life-threatening emergency and infusion of glucose with insulin has so far been regarded as the standard treatment of choice. Recently the beta-2 stimulatory drug salbutamol has been shown to be an effective agent to treat hyperkalaemia by inducing a shift of potassium into the intracellular compartment. We treated 15 children aged 0.1-14 (mean 5.2) years suffering from acute hyperkalaemia (mean level 6.6 +/- 0.54, range 5.9-7.7 mmol/l) with a single infusion of salbutamol (5 micrograms/kg over 15 min). Serum potassium concentrations decreased significantly within 30 min to levels of 5.74 +/- 0.53 and 4.92 +/- 0.53 mmol/l after 120 min (P < 0.001, respectively). No side-effects occurred other than a light increase in heart rate in 3 patients.
Conclusion: A single intravenous infusion of salbutamol at a dose of 5 micrograms/kg is a highly effective treatment for hyperkalaemia with minimal clinical side-effects. The effect lasts for at least 120 min and may reverse hyperkalaemia in some patients without further interventions so that salbutamol seems justified as the first choice treatment for this condition in childhood.