Hypokalemic Paresis in a 26-Year-Old Man After Recreational Cannabis Use

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BACKGROUND Hypokalemia (serum potassium level below 3.5 mmol/L) is present in approximately 11% of patients admitted to emergency departments. Hypokalemia can be a manifestation of many underlying causes and if untreated can be fatal. A careful approach to work-up and management is required in hypokalemic patients. CASE REPORT Here we report a 26-year-old previously healthy male patient who was admitted to the Emergency Department with rapidly progressing paresis of the lower and upper extremities. Initial laboratory results revealed severe hypokalemia of 2.1 mmol/l, which aggravated to 1.6 mmol/l before receiving treatment with intravenous potassium chloride supplementation. In addition, the patient developed rhabdomyolysis secondary to prolonged paralysis and immobilization induced by hypokalemia. Following this treatment, the patient's symptoms eased rapidly, and his potassium concentration was normalized. The patient admitted to smoking cannabis the day before admission. In this case report, we systematically elaborate and exclude the causes of hypokalemia in this otherwise healthy young adult, including medication, gastrointestinal symptoms, licorice consumption, and genetical testing. Cannabis has been associated with hypokalemia, proposedly through activation of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1)-mediated activation of G protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels. CONCLUSIONS This case report emphasizes that hypokalemia can cause paralysis and cannabis should be included in the diagnostic mindset.

TidsskriftAmerican Journal of Case Reports
StatusUdgivet - 22 maj 2022

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