Managing Hyperkalemia in Cardiorenal Patients Taking RAAS Inhibitors

According to a story from The British Journal of Cardiology, the use of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system (RAAS) inhibitors or blockers is a valuable component of treatment for many medical conditions and diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetic nephropathy, prior heart attacks, and chronic heart failure. However, a common side effect of using these drugs is hyperkalemia, or elevated potassium levels in the blood. This can make treatment more difficult and can increase the likelihood of more problematic complications appearing.

About Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia, or elevated levels of blood potassium, does not necessarily cause symptoms, but when it reaches a certain level, it can become an urgent medical complication. Hyperkalemia rarely appears entirely on its own, and is often the result of other medical problems, such as kidney failure. Metabolic acidosis is another possible cause. Certain medications can also increase potassium concentrations in the blood. Symptoms of this condition include hyperventilation, malaise, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, muscle pain, and loss of sensation. Heart rhythm changes which occasionally appear can be potentially fatal. The condition can be managed with a low sodium diet, certain medications, and, when severe, dialysis. Hyperkalemia increases the overall risk of death ten-fold and can complicate the treatment of the underlying medical problem. To learn more about hyperkalemia, click here.

Managing Hyperkalemia With RAAS Inhibitors

The management of hyperkalemia is a vital component of successful treatment. In a survey of medical professionals that had familiarity with the condition, they listed that treatment for hyperkalemia may be necessary when concentrations reach as little as 4.8 mmol/L. While this is considered be in the high range of normal potassium concentrations, some physicians cited a need for preemptive treatment before the effects of hyperkalemia became more pronounced. This prophylaxis can help maintain kidney function and heart stability.

As there are a number of potential medications that can manage hyperkalemia, doctors should not have to worry about taking other measures, such as reducing the dose of RAAS inhibitors or seeking alternative therapies; the therapeutic benefit of these drugs has been well established. Managing hyperkalemia should take into account factors such as how rapidly potassium levels are changing as well as the absolute concentration of the element. 

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