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September 1967

Ectopic Beats and Atrioventricular Conduction Disturbances: In Patients With Hypopotassemia

Arch Intern Med. 1967;120(3):280-285. doi:10.1001/archinte.1967.00300030022005

PERFUSION with potassium deficient solutions induces ectopic rhythms and atrioventricular (AV) conduction disturbances in isolated rabbit hearts.1,2 In dogs and in man, potassium loss sensitizes the heart to digitalis intoxication which is manifested by ectopic beats, ectopic rhythms and AV conduction disturbances.3 Levine 4 suggested that potassium loss may precipitate various arrhythmias, particularly supraventricular tachycardia, in patients receiving and in patients not receiving digitalis. Recently Fisch and co-workers5 have reviewed many case reports of patients in whom ectopic beats and AV conduction disturbances were attributed to potassium deficiency or hypopotassemia. Surawicz and Lepeschkin 6 studied electrocardiograms of 25 patients with hypopotassemia and found that all four patients with plasma potassium concentration less than 2.6 mEq/liter had ectopic beats. In another study,7 13 of 50 patients with plasma potassium concentration less than 3.5 mEq/liter had ectopic beats. Weaver and Burchell8 found ectopic atrial beats in