Figure 638

Signs and symptoms of metabolic alkalosis. Mild to moderate metabolic alkalosis usually is accompanied by few if any symptoms, unless potassium depletion is substantial. In contrast, severe metabolic alkalosis ([HCO3] > 40 mEq/L) is usually a symptomatic disorder. Alkalemia, hypokalemia, hypoxemia, hypercapnia, and decreased plasma ionized calcium concentration all contribute to these clinical manifestations. The arrhythmogenic potential of alka-lemia is more pronounced in patients with underlying heart disease and is heightened by the almost constant presence of hypokalemia, especially in those patients taking digitalis. Even mild alkalemia can frustrate efforts to wean patients from mechanical ventilation [23,24].

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