Acquired hyperkalaemia leading to periodic paralysis: An emergency department perspective

Document Type



Emergency Medicine


Hyperkalaemia is one of the common electrolyte imbalances dealt with in the emergency department and is caused by extracellular accumulation of potassium ions above normal limits usually greater than 5.0-5.5 mmol/L. It is found in a total of 1-10% of hospitalised patients usually associated with chronic kidney disease and heart failure. The presentation can range from being asymptomatic to deadly arrhythmias. The appearance of symptoms depends on the rate of change rather than just the numerical values. The rare presentation includes periodic paralysis characterised by the sudden onset of short-term muscle weakness, stiffness or paralysis. Management goals are directed towards reducing potassium levels in emergency settings and later on avoiding the triggers for future attacks. In this case, we present a man in his 50s with the generalised weakness later on diagnosed as hyperkalaemic periodic paralysis secondary to tumour lysis syndrome. Emergency physicians dealing with common electrolyte imbalances should keep a sharp eye on their rare presentation and their precipitating factors and should act accordingly.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMJ Case Reports