Although dyskalemia is common, its management can be problematic for students and general practitioners, especially when it occurs in patients with heart and renal failure. The basic academic knowledge of general medicine students, who have often not yet encountered clinical situations of dyskalemia, remains unclear in this regard.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the knowledge and reflexive practices of general medicine students in regard to dyskalemia.
A cross-sectional survey, based on a self-questionnaire, of all of the students enrolled in general medicine studies at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Nancy (France) at the end of their degree. The students were asked questions pertaining to specific clinical situations. The answers were compared to the information provided in the medical curriculum as well as to the relevant European guidelines.
We collected 290 of the questionnaires (participation rate: 81.2%). The hyper- and hypo-kalemia thresholds considered pathological (3.5-5.0 mmol/L) were known by 78% and 67% of the students, respectively. The perception of danger in case of severe hypokalemia was underestimated by 62.7% of them. In most cases, the proposed management of hyperkalemia in heart and renal failure did not comply with the relevant guidelines. The students tended to favor permanent discontinuation of the administration of converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) and/or mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRA) without considering the need for their reintroduction (51.6%). Sodium polystyrene sulfate was frequently seen as an appropriate first-line treatment for hyperkalemia (45%).
The knowledge and competence of general medicine students appear to be lacking for hyperkalemia in heart and renal failure, and they are long way from full compliance with the relevant European guidelines. Exposure to complex clinical situations as part of the medical curriculum, therefore, seems essential to improve the way dyskalemia is managed in France.

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