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Approach to Patients With High Anion Gap Metabolic Acidosis: Core Curriculum 2021
American Journal of Kidney Diseases  (IF8.86),  Pub Date : 2021-08-13, DOI: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2021.02.341
Andrew Z. Fenves, Michael Emmett

The anion gap (AG) is a mathematical construct that compares the blood sodium concentration with the sum of the chloride and bicarbonate concentrations. It is a helpful calculation that divides the metabolic acidoses into 2 categories: high AG metabolic acidosis (HAGMA) and hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis—and thereby delimits the potential etiologies of the disorder. When the [AG] is compared with changes in the bicarbonate concentration, other occult acid-base disorders can be identified. Furthermore, finding that the AG is very small or negative can suggest several occult clinical disorders or raise the possibility of electrolyte measurement artifacts. In this installment of AJKD’s Core Curriculum in Nephrology, we discuss cases that represent several very common and several rare causes of HAGMA. These case scenarios highlight how the AG can provide vital clues that direct the clinician toward the correct diagnosis. We also show how to calculate and, if necessary, correct the AG for hypoalbuminemia and severe hyperglycemia. Plasma osmolality and osmolal gap calculations are described and when used together with the AG guide appropriate clinical decision making.