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How safe is surgery when suffering from low potassium levels?

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Posted on Fri, 5 Sep 2014
Question: I received a call from my surgeon's office informing me that my lab work drawn this week revealed my potassium level was low. I have a total knee replacement tentatively scheduled on August 12, 2014. I wasn't at home to take the call and my husband forgot to tell me until today about the call being received. I am guessing that it must have been extremely low (?) for his office to call me. Should surgery be cancelled due to low potassium? I do know that it can post cardiac risks and complications with anesthesia
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Answered by Dr. Kerry Pottinger (50 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
Surgery may not have to be cancelled.

Detailed Answer:
Hi,
Thank you for using Healthcarae Magic. A low potassium preoperatively will be important in relation to anesthesia. This is because a low potassium can cause cardiac arrhythmias. However, if it is only marginally low then surgery and anesthesia can proceed without any increased risk. Therefore, it depends on the exact potassium level as to whether your surgery needs to be postponed whilst your potassium is treated. Your anesthetist is likely to make this decision.
Treatment for a low potassium includes potassium tablets in the first instance.
I hope this is of help. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards,
Dr K A Pottinger
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Kerry Pottinger

Pain Medicine & Palliative Care Specialist

Practicing since :1983

Answered : 1337 Questions

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How safe is surgery when suffering from low potassium levels?

Brief Answer: Surgery may not have to be cancelled. Detailed Answer: Hi, Thank you for using Healthcarae Magic. A low potassium preoperatively will be important in relation to anesthesia. This is because a low potassium can cause cardiac arrhythmias. However, if it is only marginally low then surgery and anesthesia can proceed without any increased risk. Therefore, it depends on the exact potassium level as to whether your surgery needs to be postponed whilst your potassium is treated. Your anesthetist is likely to make this decision. Treatment for a low potassium includes potassium tablets in the first instance. I hope this is of help. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Regards, Dr K A Pottinger