Medical Surgical Potassium K+ #4

Question

A client has a serum potassium level of 6 mEq/L. Which health problem should the nurse attribute to this electrolyte value?

Answers

  1. Laxative abuse.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because laxative abuse can lead to diarrhea which may cause a low serum potassium level because output is greater than input; however, it is not associated with hyperkalemia.

  2. Acute renal failure.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because a serum potassium level of 6 mEq/L is associated with acute renal failure. A serum potassium level of less than 3.5 mEq/L is referred to as hypokalemia while a level greater than 5.5 mEq/L is referred to as hyperkalemia.

  3. Nasogastric drainage.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because nasogastric drainage may cause a low serum potassium level because output may be greater than input; however, it is not associated with hyperkalemia.

  4. Malabsorption syndrome.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because diarrhea results in malabsorption syndrome which may cause a low serum potassium level because output may be greater than input; however, it is not associated with hyperkalemia.

Overview

The normal range for serum potassium is 3.5 to 5.5 mEq/L. A serum potassium level of less than 3.5 mEq/L is referred to as hypokalemia while a level greater than 5.5 mEq/L is referred to as hyperkalemia.

Explanation

Learning Outcomes

A serum potassium level of less than 3.5 mEq/L is referred to as hypokalemia while a level greater than 5.5 mEq/L is referred to as hyperkalemia. High potassium levels can have causes that are not due to underlying disease, including eating a high potassium meal or medication side effects. However, the primary cause of hyperkalemia is often acute renal failure. Fluids and electrolytes may be lost in the nasogastric drainage.

Test Taking Tip

Consider the causes of hyperkalemia versus hypokalemia to answer this question correctly.

Video Rationale