Medical Surgical Potassium K+ #15

Question

The nurse, caring for a group of clients notes that one client has a serum potassium level of 5.5 mEq/L. Which client should the nurse suspect has this level?

Answers

  1. The client with colitis
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the client who experiences colitis is likely to develop hypokalemia, not hyperkalemia. Potassium is lost through loose stools.

  2. The client with Cushing's syndrome
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the client who is diagnosed with Cushing syndrome is likely to develop hypokalemia, not hyperkalemia. With Cushing’s syndrome, because cortisol levels are elevated, this leads to a decreased potassium level.

  3. The client who has been overusing laxatives
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the client who overuses laxatives is likely to develop hypokalemia, not hyperkalemia. Potassium is lost through loose stools.

  4. The client who has sustained a traumatic burn
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because clients in the early stages of massive cell destruction, such as with heavy burns are at risk for hyperkalemia. A potassium level greater than 5.1mEq/L is an indication of hyperkalemia.

Overview

Hyperkalemia is the medical term that describes a potassium level in the blood that’s higher than normal. Following burn injury, as after other forms of trauma, there is renal sodium and water retention with increased urinary potassium losses.

Explanation

Learning Outcomes

Potassium plays an essential role in many bodily functions. Specifically, potassium plays a role in nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Serum potassium levels that are outside of the normal range can increase the risk for complications. Following burn injury, as after other forms of trauma, there is renal sodium and water retention with increased urinary potassium losses; therefore, the client who sustained a traumatic burn is likely to experience hyperkalemia.

Test Taking Tip

Consider the impact that each client’s diagnosis is likely to have on serum potassium levels to answer this question correctly.

Video Rationale