Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hyperkalemia/Hypokalemia EKG Tattoos & Primer

Today's posting will bridge the gap between our Bad EKG Tattoo series and our primer series.

The figure above shows examples of the effects on the heart rhythm at various levels of serum potassium upset. We'll start with hypokalemia, or potassium levels which are too low.

Compare these EKG tattoos with the figure at the top of the page, and you'll find that they resemble the EKG of a person with hypokalemia. What can cause this? Anorexia, urinary loss, certain medications and genetic conditions. Perhaps this was intentional, I don't know. Just be aware of the message you are sending with your abnormal EKG tattoo. On a completely unrelated note is that the word "men" written at the end of the first tattoo?

On the other end of the spectrum, we have hyperkalemia, or too much potassium. This is caused by kidney failure and a number of other conditions:

The above example is from an actual tattoo website and the law allows me to copy it in order to make fun of it. It is titled "Bike Chain Heartbeat" and will cost you 65 cents to download. The fact that a company would accept real money in exchange for this uneducated garbage is offensive. Consulting the chart, we see that this waveform coincides with a serum potassium greater than 9.0 mEq/L, which is a medical emergency. This potassium level is associated with sudden death.

As always, if you are unsure about your EKG tattoo you can email your sketch to me at drew.rinella [at], and I will give you feedback as a free public service.

Thanks for Reading!

Learn more about proper heart rhythms with the best book ever written on the subject

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