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Severe Hyperkalemia Immediately After Birth

Alja Kavčič, Simona Avčin, Štefan Grosek

(University Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Am J Case Rep 2019; 20:1471-1475

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.916368


BACKGROUND: Hyperkalemia is an important cause of arrhythmias and a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. The etiology is usually multifactorial. It is most frequently caused by impaired potassium secretion, followed by transcellular potassium shifts and an increased potassium load.
CASE REPORT: A male newborn developed monomorphic ventricular tachycardia 2 hours after birth. He was born in the 35th week of gestation by urgent C-section following placental abruption. Laboratory results showed hemolytic anemia (Hb 99 g/L, Hct 0.31) with increased bilirubin levels and reticulocytosis, thrombocytopenia (39×10⁹/L), hypoglycemia (0.8 mmol/L), and severe hyperkalemia (9.8 mmol/L). Umbilical artery blood gas analysis showed hypoxemia with acidosis (pO₂ 3.8 kPa, pH 7.21, pCO₂ 7.84 kPa, HCO₃ 23.3 mmol/L, BE -5 mmol/L). Creatinine (102 µmol/L) and urea (9.8 mmol/L) were mildly elevated. Inflammatory markers were also increased (CRP 26 mg/L, blood leukocyte count 24×10⁹/L). Early-onset sepsis, caused by Candida albicans, was confirmed approximately 24 hours after birth. Non-invasive ventilation with 35-40% O₂ was necessary due to transient tachypnea. The neonate received a transfusion of packed red blood cells, a 10% glucose infusion, and empirical antibiotic therapy. Hyperkalemia accompanied by arrhythmias was treated with calcium gluconate, insulin, Sorbisterit enema, and, finally, by exchange transfusion.
CONCLUSIONS: We report a case of severe hyperkalemia in a newborn immediately after birth. Making a decision as early as possible regarding exchange transfusion is essential in patients with hyperkalemia with electrocardiogram changes and hemodynamic instability.

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