Hyperkalemia: A Potentially Life-threatening Condition in Organ Transplant Recipients

Hyperkalemia increased the risk of 30-day readmissions.

Solid organ transplant (SOT) recipients experience an increased incidence of hyperkalemia caused by both pathophysiological or medication related mechanisms, according to a study by researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) Division of Nephrology Kidney CARE Program and presented recently at the American Society of Nephrology meeting.

In a multicenter sample of approximately 15,000 SOT recipients, researchers examined the incidence and outcomes of hyperkalemia. Specifically, they examined first hospitalizations after transplant surgery.

Overall, 16% of the study patients experienced moderate to severe hyperkalemia, defined as potassium levels above 5.5 milliequivalents per liter. Mortality was 6% in those patients with hyperkalemia, compared with the mortality of 2% in patients without hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia also increased the risk of 30-day readmissions.

The researchers noted some study limitations, specifically, the fact that observational studies and associations can have unmeasured confounders. They noted that future studies need to identify specific modifiable factors that can mitigate the risks of this condition.

Part of this work was supported by a fellowship grant award funded by Relypsa.