Introduction: Severe hyperkalaemia is a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention. Before medical treatment is started, pseudohyperkalaemia has to be ruled out. Case description: A 10-month old infant presented to the emergency department with fever and coughing since 1 week. Routine venous blood testing revealed a severe hyperkalaemia of 6.9 mmol/L without any indication of haemolysis. Reanalysis of the plasma sample confirmed the hyperkalaemia (7.1 mmol/L). Based on these results, the clinical pathologist suggested to perform a venous blood gas analysis and electrocardiogram (ECG) which revealed a normal potassium of 3.7 mmol/L and normal ECG, ruling out a potentially life-treating hyperkalaemia. The child was diagnosed with pneumonia. The paediatrician had difficulty to perform the first venous blood collection due to excessive movement of the infant during venipuncture. The muscle contractions of the child in combination with venous stasis most probably led to a local increase of potassium in the sampled limbs. The second sample collected under optimal preanalytical circumstances had a normal potassium. Since muscle contraction typically does not cause severe hyperkalaemia, other causes of pseudohyperkalaemia were excluded. K3-EDTA contamination and familial hyperkalaemia were ruled out and the patient did not have extreme leucocytosis or thrombocytosis. By exclusion a diagnosis of pseudohyperkalaemia due to intense muscle movement and venous stasis was made. Conclusion: This case suggests that intense muscle contraction and venous stasis can cause severe pseudohyperkalemia without hemolysis. Once true hyperkalemia has been ruled out, a laboratory work-up can help identify the cause of pseudohyperkalaemia.
A case of severe pseudohyperkalaemia due to muscle contraction / Jan Van Elslande, Toon Dominicus, Jaan Toelen, Glynis Frans, Pieter Vermeersch.