Whole body potassium measurements were performed on 55 cirrhotic patients in different stages of the disease. They included 34 with alcoholic cirrhosis, 10 with cryptogenic cirrhosis, eight with chronic active hepatitis, and three with haemochromatosis. Serial measurements were carried out in 21 patients. The findings of this study indicate that: (1) the aetiology of the cirrhosis is important in determining the potassium status of cirrhotics, most alcoholics being depleted; (2) ascites and decompensation are usually associated with potassium depletion but compensated cirrhotics may also be depleted even when not receiving diuretics; (3) the initial potassium status, whether a cirrhotic be decompensated or not, is difficult to alter in the short term (six months). Marked changes in potassium status can occur in alcoholic patients studied over longer periods.
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