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Eric Wassermann ewass at helix.nih.gov
Thu Jun 23 08:55:03 EST 1994

In article <22JUN94.17885867.0016.MUSIC at MUSIC.FERRIS.EDU>,
DFONNER at MUSIC.FERRIS.EDU ("Fonner, Douglas") wrote:

> Nurses in a class I teach claim that cramping is frequent symptom of
> hypokalemia in their patients. According to the Nernst equation and
> everything I've read, hypokalemia should hyperpolarize membranes and
> decrease excitability. I seem to be missing something. I would greatly
> appreciate any information regarding this matter.
> Thanks, D. Fonner

Well D.:

I don't think you're missing anything.  A quick survey of authoritative
texts on my bookshelf on clinical electrophysiology, neuromuscular disease.
clinical neurology, and basic physiology reveals no mention of cramping in
hypokalemia.  Cramping may be associated with alkalosis which sometimes
accompanies hypokalemia in clinical settings, but it gets worse when
potassium levels rise.  

I think the nurses are confusing their cations.

Eric Wassermann
Human Motor Control Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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