A Prospective Study on Red Blood Cell Transfusion Related Hyperkalemia in Critically Ill Patients

Shahzad Raza, Mahadi Ali Baig, Christopher Chang, Ridhima Dabas, Mallika Akhtar, Areej Khan, Krishna Nemani, Rahima Alani, Omran Majumder, Natalya Gazizova, Shaluk Biswas, Priyeshkumar Patel, Jaffar A. Al-Hilli, Yasar Shad, Barbara J. Berger, Mohammad Zaman


Background: Transfusion-associated hyperkalemic cardiac arrest is a serious complication in patients receiving packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions. Mortality from hyperkalemia increases with large volumes of PRBC transfusion, increased rate of transfusion, and the use of stored PRBCs. Theoretically, hyperkalemia may be complicated by low cardiac output, acidosis, hyperglycemia, hypocalcemia, and hypothermia. In this study, we focus on transfusion-related hyperkalemia involving only medical intensive care unit (MICU) patients.

Method: This prospective observational study focuses on PRBC transfusions among MICU patients greater than 18 years of age. Factors considered during each transfusion included patients diagnosis, indication for transfusion, medical co-morbidities, acid-base disorders, K+ levels before and after each PRBC transfusion, age of stored blood, volume and rate of transfusion, and other adverse events. We used Pearson correlation and multivariate analysis for each factor listed above and performed a logistic regression analysis.

Results: Between June 2011 and December 2011, 125 patients received a total of 160 units of PRBCs. Median age was 63 years (22 - 92 years). Seventy-one (57%) were females. Sixty-three patients (50%) had metabolic acidosis, 75 (60%) had acute renal failure (ARF), and 12 (10%) had end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Indications for transfusion included septic shock (n = 65, 52%), acute blood loss (n = 25, 20%), non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) (n = 25, 20%) and preparation for procedures (n = 14, 11%). Baseline K+ value was 3.9 1.1 mEq/L compared to 4.3 1.2 mEq/L post-transfusion respectively (P = 0.9). During this study period, 4% of patients developed hyperkalemia (K+ 5.5 mEq/L or above). The mean change of serum potassium in patients receiving transfusion >= 12 days old blood was 4.1 0.4 mEq/L compared to 4.8 0.3 mEq/L (mean SD) in patients receiving blood 12 days or less old. Sixty-two patients (77.5%) that were transfused stored blood (for more than 12 days) had increased serum K+; eight (17.7%) patients received blood that was stored for less than 12 days. In both univariate (P = 0.02) and multivariate (P = 0.04) analysis, findings showed that among all factors, transfusion of stored blood was the only factor that affected serum potassium levels (95% CI: 0.32 - 0.91). No difference was found between central and peripheral intravenous access (P = 0.12), acidosis (P = 0.12), ARF (P = 0.6), ESRD (P = 0.5), and multiple transfusions (P = 0.09). One subject developed a sustained cardiac arrest after developing severe hyperkalemia (K+ = 9.0) following transfusion of seven units of PRBCs. Multivariate logistic regression showed linear correlation between duration of stored blood and serum K+ (R2 = 0.889).

Conclusion: This study assesses factors that affect K+ in patients admitted to MICU. Results from the study show that rise in serum K+ level is more pronounced in patients who receive stored blood (> 12 days). Future studies should focus on the use of altered storage solution, inclusion of potassium absorption filters during transfusion and cautious use of blood warmer in patients requiring massive blood transfusions.

J Clin Med Res. 2015;7(6):417-421
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2123w


Hyperkalemia; Red cell storage; Packed red blood cell transfusion; Potassium

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