Medical Definition of Potassium

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Potassium: The major positive ion (cation) found inside cells. The chemical notation for potassium is K+. The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function. An abnormal increase in potassium (hyperkalemia) or decrease in potassium (hypokalemia) can profoundly affect the nervous system and heart, and when extreme, can be fatal. The normal blood potassium level is 3.5'5.0 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or 3.5 international units.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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