Hypokalemic paralyses: A review of the etiologies, pathophysiology, presentation, and therapy

Ray E. Stedwell, Kevin M. Allen, Louis S. Binder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Acute hypokalemic paralysis is an uncommon cause of acute weakness. Morbidity and mortality associated with unrecognized disease include resplratory failure and death. Hence, it is imperative for physicians to be knowledgeable about the causes of hypokalemic paralysis, and consider them diagnostically. The hypokalemic paralyses represent a heterogenoous group of disorders with a final common pathway presenting as acute weakness and hypokalemia. Most cases are due to familial hypokalemic paralysis; however, sporadic cases are associated with diverse underlying etiologies including thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, barium polsoning, renal tubular acidosis, primary hyperaldosteronism, licorice ingestion, and gastrointestinal potassium losses. The approach to the patient with hypokalemic paralysis includes a vigorous search for the underlying etiology and potassium replacement therapy. Further therapy depends on the etiology of the hypokalemia. Disposition depends on severity of symptoms, degree of hypokalemia, and chronicity of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-148
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Hypokalemia
  • paralysis
  • weakness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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