Status asthmaticus is commonly treated in pediatric patients by using continuous albuterol, which can cause hypokalemia. The primary aim of this study was to determine if serial potassium monitoring is necessary by examining treatment frequency of hypokalemia.
This retrospective analysis was performed in 185 pediatric patients admitted with status asthmaticus requiring continuous albuterol between 2017 and 2019. All patients were placed on intravenous fluids containing potassium. The primary outcome measure was the treatment of hypokalemia in relation to the number of laboratory draws for potassium levels. The secondary outcome measure was hypokalemia frequency and relation to the duration and initial dose of continuous albuterol.
Included were 156 patients with 420 laboratory draws (average, 2.7 per patient) for potassium levels. The median lowest potassium level was 3.40 mmol/L (interquartile range, 3.2–3.7). No correlation was found between initial albuterol dose and lowest potassium level (P = .52). Patients with hypokalemia had a mean albuterol time of 12.32 (SD, 15.76) hours, whereas patients without hypokalemia had a mean albuterol time of 11.50 (SD, 12.53) hours (P = .29). Potassium levels were treated 13 separate times.
The number of laboratory draws for potassium levels was high in our cohort, with few patients receiving treatment for hypokalemia beyond the potassium routinely added to maintenance fluids. Length of time on albuterol and dose of albuterol were not shown to increase the risk of hypokalemia. Serial laboratory measurements may be decreased to potentially reduce health care costs, pain, and anxiety surrounding needlesticks.