Acute and chronic changes in intra- and extracellular potassium and responses to neuromuscular blocking agents

G. E. Hill, K. C. Wong, C. L. Shaw, R. A. Blatnick

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The effects of acutely induced metabolic and respiratory alkalosis with reduction of serum potassium concentration as well as chronic total body potassium depletion induced by furosemide treatment were evaluated and correlated with alteration of neuromuscular blockade induced by d-tubocurarine, pancuronium, and succinylcholine in 12 mongrel dogs. Acute respiratory and metabolic alkalosis significantly reduced serum potassium by about 26%, while chronic furosemide treatment (1 mg/kg IV daily for 14 ± 4 days) significantly reduced both serum potassium concentration (4.16 ± 0.31 to 3.27 ± 0.14 mEq/L) and skeletal muscle potassium content (80.9 ± 5.6 to 58.7 ± 4.1 mEq/kg). Succinylcholine neuromuscular blockade was essentially unchanged by acute respiratory or metabolic alkalosis or by chronic furosemide treatment, except for more rapid onset of blockade when 0.1 mg/kg succinylcholine was administered during metabolic alkalosis. Acute respiratory alkalosis shortened the duration of neuromuscular blockade induced by d-tubocurarine and pancuronium while acute metabolic alkalosis shortened the duration of pancuronium only and had no effect on d-tubocurarine. Chronic furosemide treatment had no effect on either d-tubocurarine or pancuronium neuromuscular blockade. Potassium concentration gradients between the intracellular and the extracellular compartments may be more important than cellular potassium depletion per se in affecting responses to neuromuscular blocking agents such as succinylcholine, d-tubocurarine, or pancuronium. Serum alkalemia and hypokalemia antagonize the duration of the neuromuscular blocking action of d-tubocurarine and pancuronium but not that of succinylcholine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-421
Number of pages5
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1978


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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