UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: Hypokalemia and induced hypothermia

Keywords: therapeutic hypothermia, hypothermia, hypokalemia, cardiac arrest (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/2/2011 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 1/18/2022)
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Induced hypothermia is associated with a decline in serum potassium levels. The cold myocardium is already mildly predisposed to arrhythmias, and the combination of hypokalemia + hypothermia appears to increase the risk of polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. Two simple measures should be taken during post-arrest therapeutic hypothermia:
1. Correct hypokalemia before and during cooling.
2. Monitor the patient's potassium level and QT interval during cooling, and correct as needed.


Mirzoyev SA, McLeod CJ, Bunch TJ, et al. Hypokalemia during the cooling phase of therapeutic hypothermia and its impact on arrhythmogenesis. Resuscitation 2010;81:1632-1636.