The need to avoid hypokalemia during diuretic therapy in nondigitalized patients has been questioned. Twenty-one patients with (1) mild essential hypertension, (2) plasma potassium of less than 3.5 meq/liter during previous diuretic treatment, and (3) normal findings [less than 6 unifocal ventricular premature beats/hour] on 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring and exercise testing were treated with hydrochlorothiazide (50 mg twice a day) for four weeks and then ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring and exercise testing were repeated. Ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring revealed that ventricular ectopic activity developed in seven patients and complex ventricular ectopic activity (multifocal ventricular premature beats, ventricular couplets and/or ventricular tachycardia) in four. Only two of these seven had ventricular ectopic activity during exercise testing while they were hypokalemic. Potassium repletion in these seven patients with spironolactone abolished complex ventricular ectopic activity and reduced unifocal ventricular premature beats significantly (p less than 0.01) from an average of 71.2 ventricular premature beats/hour/patient during hydrochlorothiazide treatment to 5.4 ventricular prema...Continue Reading
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