Potassium chloride (medical use)
|Trade names||Kay-Cee-L, Slow-K, others|
|AHFS/Drugs.com||Multum Consumer Information|
|Chemical and physical data|
|3D model (JSmol)|
Potassium chloride is used as a medication to treat and prevent low blood potassium. Low blood potassium may occur due to vomiting, diarrhea, or certain medications. The concentrated version should be diluted before use. It is given by slow injection into a vein or by mouth.
Side effects may include heart problems if given too quickly by injection into a vein. By mouth it can result in abdominal pain, peptic ulcer disease, or gastrointestinal bleeding. Greater care is recommended in those with kidney problems. As long as high blood potassium does not occur, use in pregnancy or breastfeeding is believed to be safe for the baby. Generally, the strength of the formulation for injection into a vein should not be greater than 40 mmol/l (3gm/l).
Potassium chloride came into large scale commercial use as a fertilizer in 1861 and has been used medically since the 1950s. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Potassium chloride is available as a generic medication. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about 0.44 USD per 10 ml of 10% solution. In the United Kingdom 10 ml of 15% solution costs the NHS about 0.48 pounds. In 2016 it was the 33rd most prescribed medication in the United States with more than 22 million prescriptions.
Potassium chloride is used in the treatment of hypokalemia as an electrolyte replenisher. With a molecular weight of approximately 75 and a valence of 1, the use of KCl for electrolytes makes 75 mg the equivalent of 1 mEq.
Some cardiac surgery procedures cannot be carried out on the beating heart. For these procedures, the surgical team will bypass the heart with a heart-lung machine and inject potassium chloride into the heart muscle to stop the heartbeat.
Overdoses cause hyperkalemia, which can lead to paresthesia, cardiac conduction blocks, fibrillation, arrhythmias, and sclerosis. Because of the danger of hyperkalemia, the US FDA limits the amount of potassium supplements to 99 mg (about 1.3 mEq) while recommending an adult daily intake of 4700 mg (about 63 mEq).
Slow-K is a 1950s development where the medicine is formulated to enter the bloodstream at delayed intervals. It was first only prescribed to British military forces to balance their diets while serving in Korea.
Brand names include K-Dur, Klor-Con, Micro-K, Slow-K, Sando-K and Kaon Cl, most of which are extended release medicine by mouth.
Potassium chloride overdoses have led to its use in lethal injection, as the third of a three-drug combination. Additionally, KCl is used (albeit rarely) in fetal intracardiac injections in second- and third-trimester induced abortions. Jack Kevorkian's thanatron machine injected a lethal dose of potassium chloride into the patient, which caused the heart to stop functioning, after a sodium thiopental-induced coma was achieved.
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Potassium chloride, used since the 1950s for the treatment of potassium depletion in humans
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