Pharmacology Electrolytes #5

Question

Which route does the nurse expect the healthcare provider to prescribe for a client with a potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L who is receiving furosemide 20 mg daily?

Answers

  1. By mouth (PO)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because the potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L for a client who is on daily furosemide (a potassium wasting diuretic) needs to be treated for the slightly low potassium levels. The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.3 mmol/L. Symptoms of hypokalemia can range from leg cramping to lethal heart arrhythmia. Mild hypokalemia (such as in the question) is treated with PO potassium since that is a least invasive treatment for mild hypokalemia.

  2. Subcutaneous (SC)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because subcutaneous infusion of potassium is not appropriate. The client has a potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L. The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.3 mmol/L. Symptoms of hypokalemia can range from leg cramping to lethal heart arrhythmia. Mild hypokalemia (such as in the question) is treated with PO potassium.

  3. Intramuscular (IM)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because intramuscular infusion of potassium is not appropriate. The client has a potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L. The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.3 mmol/L. Symptoms of hypokalemia can range from leg cramping to lethal heart arrhythmia. Mild hypokalemia (such as in the question) is treated with PO potassium.

  4. Intravascular (IV)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because the client has a potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L. The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.3 mmol/L. Symptoms of hypokalemia can range from leg cramping to lethal heart arrhythmia. Mild hypokalemia (such as in the question) is treated with PO potassium. Severe hypokalemia will be treated by slow infusion of potassium.

Overview

Hypokalemia is a decreased blood level of potassium. A potassium level of 3.4 mmol/L will be treated with oral potassium supplementation.

Explanation

Learning Outcomes

Hypokalemia is a decreased blood level of potassium. The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.3 mmol/L. Symptoms of hypokalemia can range from leg cramping to lethal heart arrhythmia. Mild hypokalemia (such as in the question) is treated with PO potassium. There could be little to no symptoms associated with mild hypokalemia. As the severity of hypokalemia progresses, symptoms such as cramping, muscle twitches, palpitations can worsen to heart arrhythmias, kidney problems, and death. Severe hypokalemia will be treated by slow infusion of potassium. The rate would be 10 meq of potassium per hour so 40 meq of potassium would be infused over 4 hours. The IV site would be checked due to risk of extravasation and blood levels would be monitored closely for increasing potassium levels.

Test Taking Tip

Remember your lab levels always for potassium and remember to treat the client with less invasive means when the potassium is barely low.

Video Rationale