Lab Case 352 Interpretation

70 year old female presents to ED with a 1 month history of vomiting and diarrhoea. Over the last few days she has started to feel increasingly weak and had a few episodes of confusion. The patient has a background history of one previous episode small bowel colitis for which she was treated with a short course of steroids 2 years ago. On examination HR 102 BP 90/540 Apyrexial Sats 97% RA RR18. She has dry mucous membranes and decreased skin turgor and CPR 3 seconds.


pH 7.557                                                  Na 122 mmol/l

pCO2 44 mmHg                                      K 2.0 mmol/l

HCO3 37 mmol/l                                     Cl 74 mmol/l

BE 12.9                                                    Cr 85 umol/l

Lactate 2.6                                                BSL 5.5 mmol/l

Describe and interpret the VBG


Metabolic alkalosis – pH 7.557 HCO3 37mmol/l

Compensation – Expected PCO2 = (0.7xHCO3) + 20 = 45.9mmHg

Lactate mildly elevated. Sodium, potassium and chloride markedly decreased, with a normal creatinine and BSL.

This patient has a metabolic alkalosis, which is adequately compensated with an expected pCO2 of 45.9 mmHg.

Recall the causes of metabolic alkalosis – CLEVERPD (Contraction, Liquorice, Endocrine (Cushings, Conns, Bartters), Vomiting or NG suction, Excess alkali (antacids, dialysis), Refeeding alkalosis, Renal HCO3 retention with hypochloraemia and hypokalaemia, Post hypercapnia, Diuretics.  In this case the obvious cause for the metabolic alkalosis would be volume contraction, vomiting and renal HCO3 retention from the low potassium and chloride.

The markedly low electrolytes are related to the GI losses from the vomiting and diarrhoea as well as malabsorption from an underlying colitis.

The patient shows clinical and metabolic signs of hypovolaemic shock with a borderline BP, tachycardia, prolonged CPR and mildly elevated lactate.

For severe hyponatraemia with severe symptoms eg seizures

  • 150  ml of 3% hypertonic saline IV over 20  min. Recheck and repeat the infusion until there is a rise of sodium of 5mmol/l or symptoms improve

For patients with acute hyponatraemia – start diagnostic work up, stop offending drugs and fluids and re check sodium and treat according to underlying cause

For patients with chronic hyponatraemia  – treatment is directed at underlying cause.

In the above patient who has hypovolaemic hyponatraemia – Restore extracellular volume with an IV infusion of 0.9% saline at 0.5–1.0 ml/kg/h. In cases of hemodynamic instability, the need for rapid fluid resuscitation overrides the risk of an overly rapid increase in serum sodium concentration. Once the extracellular volume is replaced, replace sodium at a rate of 0.5mmol/hr. Increase sodium by 10mmol/l over the first 24 hours and 8mmol/l in the next 24 hours, until a sodium level of 130mmol/l.