Medical Surgical Labs Electrolytes Top Tested #3

Question

While caring for her client with Clostridium difficile, the nurse observes the client to be restless and confused. Which lab finding shows an association with the client’s current symptoms and diagnosis?

Answers

  1. Potassium 3.5 mEq/L
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the potassium level is normal. Appropriate potassium levels are between 3.5 – 5.0 mEq/L.

  2. Potassium 5.5 mEq/L
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the potassium level is high. Dehydration causes potassium loss because it is excreted in the diarrhea.

  3. Sodium 130 mEq/L
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because this level of sodium indicates hyponatremia. Hyponatremia occurs from severe vomiting or diarrhea or other causes of dehydration. The client’s symptoms of mental status changes correlates with the sodium levels, since low sodium can cause neurological symptoms.

  4. Sodium 150 mEq/L
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because this sodium level is high. Although dehydration can also cause hypernatremia, the client’s mental status change correlates with a low sodium level.

Overview

Mental status changes are associated with low sodium levels. Sodium levels should be between 135 -145 mEq/L.

Explanation

Learning Outcomes

A client diagnosed with Clostridium difficile will experience severe diarrhea. Severe diarrhea results in dehydration. Water and sodium are lost from the body and this causes hyponatremia and hypokalemia. Sodium levels should be between 135 -145 mEq/L. Mental status changes are associated with low sodium levels. This is due to extra water moving from the bloodstream and into the body cells, including the brain cells. This causes brain swelling which results in neurological symptoms.

Test Taking Tip

LOW sodium means LOW and SLOW. Mental status changes, seizures, coma, and respiratory arrest are all signs of hyponatremia.

Video Rationale