Serum Potassium and Mortality Risk in Hemodialysis Patients: A Cohort Study

Esther N.M. de Rooij*, Friedo W. Dekker, Netherlands Cooperative Study on the Adequacy of Dialysis-2 (NECOSAD) Study Group, Saskia Le Cessie, Ewout J. Hoorn, Johan W. de Fijter, Ellen K. Hoogeveen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Rationale & Objective: Both hypo- and hyperkalemia can cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Although predialysis serum potassium level is a known modifiable risk factor for death in patients receiving hemodialysis, especially for hypokalemia, this risk may be underestimated. Therefore, we investigated the relationship between predialysis serum potassium level and death in incident hemodialysis patients and whether there is an optimum level. Study Design: Prospective multicenter cohort study. Setting & Participants: 1,117 incident hemodialysis patients (aged >18 years) from the Netherlands Cooperative Study on the Adequacy of Dialysis-2 study were included and followed from their first hemodialysis treatment until death, transplantation, switch to peritoneal dialysis, or a maximum of 10 years. Exposure: Predialysis serum potassium levels were obtained every 6 months and divided into 6 categories: ≤4.0 mmol/L, >4.0 mmol/L to ≤4.5 mmol/L, >4.5 mmol/L to ≤5.0 mmol/L, >5.0 mmol/L to ≤5.5 mmol/L (reference), >5.5 mmol/L to ≤6.0 mmol/L, and >6.0 mmol/L. Outcomes: 6-month all-cause mortality. Analytical Approach: Cox proportional hazards and restricted cubic spline analyses with time-dependent predialysis serum potassium levels were used to calculate the adjusted HRs for death. Results: At baseline, the mean age of the patients was 63 years (standard deviation, 14 years), 58% were men, 26% smoked, 24% had diabetes, 32% had cardiovascular disease, the mean serum potassium level was 5.0 mmol/L (standard deviation, 0.8 mmol/L), 7% had a low subjective global assessment score, and the median residual kidney function was 3.5 mL/min/1.73 m2 (IQR, 1.4-4.8 mL/min/1.73 m2). During the 10-year follow-up, 555 (50%) deaths were observed. Multivariable adjusted HRs for death according to the 6 potassium categories were as follows: 1.42 (95% CI, 1.01-1.99), 1.09 (95% CI, 0.82-1.45), 1.21 (95% CI, 0.94-1.56), 1 (reference), 0.95 (95% CI, 0.71-1.28), and 1.32 (95% CI, 0.97-1.81). Limitations: Shorter intervals between potassium measurements would have allowed for more precise mortality risk estimations. Conclusions: We found a U-shaped relationship between serum potassium level and death in incident hemodialysis patients. A low predialysis serum potassium level was associated with a 1.4-fold stronger risk of death than the optimal level of approximately 5.1 mmol/L. These results may imply the cautious use of potassium-lowering therapy and a potassium-restricted diet in patients receiving hemodialysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100379
JournalKidney Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The NECOSAD was supported by grants from the Dutch Kidney Foundation and the Dutch National Health Insurance Board .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


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