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Insulin use in the treatment of hyperkalaemia

Apart from lowering blood glucose, insulin can also be used in hospital as an emergency treatment for hyperkalaemia, a high risk situation in which the blood potassium level is dangerously high.

There are several causes for this, a common one being kidney disease.

Sustained high blood potassium can be dangerous as it can predispose someone to develop dangerous abnormal cardiac rhythms.

Hyperkalaemia chart showing a normal trace on the left with regular cardiac rhythm and Hyperkalaemia on the right with an abnormal rhythm.

Among the treatments used to address hyperkalaemia is to administer intravenous insulin with glucose to promote the cellular uptake of potassium.

As you saw in the diagrams in how does insulin control key pathways?, insulin helps control movement of key ions such as potassium, and therefore giving insulin as part of the treatment plan for hyperkalaemia can enhance potassium uptake by cells.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Insulin

University of Southampton