Metabolic alkalosis

Metabolic alkalosis
Metabolic alkalosis
Classification and external resources

Davenport diagram
ICD-10 E87.3
ICD-9 276.3
DiseasesDB 402
eMedicine med/1459

Metabolic alkalosis is a metabolic condition in which the pH of tissue is elevated beyond the normal range ( 7.35-7.45 ). This is the result of decreased hydrogen ion concentration, leading to increased bicarbonate, or alternatively a direct result of increased bicarbonate concentrations.



  • Alkalosis refers to a high pH in tissue.
  • Alkalemia refers to a high pH in the blood.


There are five main causes of metabolic alkalosis.[1]

These can be divided into two categories, depending upon urine chloride levels.[2]

Chloride-responsive (<10 mEq/L)

  • Loss of hydrogen ions - Most often occurs via two mechanisms, either vomiting or via the kidney.
    • Vomiting results in the loss of hydrochloric acid (hydrogen and chloride ions) with the stomach contents. In the hospital setting this can commonly occur from nasogastric suction tubes.
    • Severe vomitting also causes loss of potassium (hypokalaemia) and sodium (hyponatraemia). The kidneys compensate for these losses by retaining sodium in the collecting ducts at the expense of hydrogen ions (sparing sodium/potassium pumps to prevent further loss of potassium), leading to metabolic alkalosis.
  • Congenital chloride diarrhea - rare for being a diarrhea that causes alkalosis instead of acidosis.
  • Contraction alkalosis - This results from a loss of water in the extracellular space which is poor in bicarbonate, typically from diuretic use. Since water is lost while bicarbonate is retained, the increased concentration of bicarbonate "mops up" more of the hydrogen ions and raises the blood pH.
    • Diuretic therapy - loop diuretics and thiazides can both initially cause increase in chloride, but once stores are depleted, urine excretion will be below < 25 mEq/L. The loss of fluid from sodium excretion causes a contraction alkalosis.
  • Posthypercapnia - Hypercapnia causes respiratory acidosis. Renal compensation with excess bicarbonate occurs to lessen the affect of the acidosis. Once carbon dioxide levels return to base line, the higher bicarbonate levels reveal themselves putting the patient into metabolic alkalosis

Chloride-resistant (>20 mEq/L)

  • Shift of hydrogen ions into intracellular space - Seen in hypokalemia. Due to a low extracellular potassium concentration, potassium shifts out of the cells. In order to maintain electrical neutrality, hydrogen shifts into the cells, raising blood pH.
  • Alkalotic agents - Alkalotic agents, such as bicarbonate (administrated in cases of peptic ulcer or hyperacidity) or antacids, administered in excess can lead to an alkalosis.
  • Hyperaldosteronism - Renal loss of hydrogen ions occurs when excess aldosterone (Conn's syndrome) increases the activity of a sodium-hydrogen exchange protein in the kidney. This increases the retention of sodium ions whilst pumping hydrogen ions into the renal tubule. Excess sodium increases extracellular volume and the loss of hydrogen ions creates a metabolic alkalosis. Later, the kidney responds through the aldosterone escape to excrete sodium and chloride in urine.[3]
  • Licorice
  • Bartter syndrome - a syndrome analogous to taking loop diuretics characterized with normotensive patients
  • Liddle syndrome - a syndrome from defect sodium channel deletion characterized by hypertension and hypoaldosteronism.
  • 11β-hydroxylase deficiency and 17 alpha-hydroxylase deficiency - both characterized by hypertension


Compensation for metabolic alkalosis occurs mainly in the lungs, which retain carbon dioxide (CO2) through slower breathing, or hypoventilation (respiratory compensation). CO2 is then consumed toward the formation of the carbonic acid intermediate, thus decreasing pH. Respiratory compensation, though, is incomplete. The decrease in [H+] suppresses the peripheral chemoreceptors, which are sensitive to pH. But, because respiration slows, there's an increase in PCO2 which would cause an offset of the depression because of the action of the central chemoreceptors which are sensitive to the partial pressure of CO2 in the blood. So, because of the central chemoreceptors, respiration rate would be increased.

Renal compensation for metabolic alkalosis, less effective than respiratory compensation, consists of increased excretion of HCO3- (bicarbonate), as the filtered load of HCO3- exceeds the ability of the renal tubule to reabsorb it.

See also


  1. ^ eMedicine - Metabolic Alkalosis : Article by Sameer Yaseen
  2. ^ "Alkalosis, Metabolic: eMedicine Pediatrics: Cardiac Disease and Critical Care Medicine". Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  3. ^ Cho Kerry C, "Chapter 21. Electrolyte & Acid-Base Disorders" (Chapter). McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA: CURRENT Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2011:

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • metabolic alkalosis — n alkalosis resulting from excessive alkali intake or excessive acid loss (as from vomiting) * * * a disturbance in which the acid base status of the body shifts toward the alkaline side because of retention of base or loss of noncarbonic, or… …   Medical dictionary

  • metabolic alkalosis — noun alkalosis resulting from hydrogen ion loss or excessive intake of alkaline substances • Hypernyms: ↑alkalosis …   Useful english dictionary

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  • alkalosis — alkalotic /al keuh lot ik/, adj. /al keuh loh sis/, n. Pathol. a condition of the blood and other body fluids in which the bicarbonate concentration is above normal, tending toward alkalemia. [1910 15; ALKAL(I) + OSIS] * * * ▪ pathology… …   Universalium

  • Alkalosis — A dangerous decrease in the normal acidity of the blood. There is too much base in the blood and body. This is a distinctly abnormal condition. It results from the accumulation of base or the depletion of acid. The pH of the alkalotic body… …   Medical dictionary

  • hypochloremic alkalosis — metabolic alkalosis marked by hypochloremia together with hyponatremia and hypokalemia, resulting from the loss of sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid due to prolonged vomiting …   Medical dictionary

  • Respiratory alkalosis — Infobox Disease Name = Respiratory alkalosis Caption = Davenport diagram DiseasesDB = 406 ICD10 = ICD10|E|87|3|e|70 ICD9 = ICD9|276.3 ICDO = OMIM = MedlinePlus = 000111 eMedicineSubj = med eMedicineTopic = 2009 MeshID = D000472 Respiratory… …   Wikipedia

  • Contraction alkalosis — refers to the increase in blood pH that occurs as a result of fluid losses (volume contraction). The change in pH is especially pronounced with acidic fluid losses caused by problems like vomiting. Pathophysiology Extracellular fluid (ECF) volume …   Wikipedia

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