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High anion gap metabolic acidosis


When acidosis is present on blood tests, the first step in determining the cause is determining the anion gap. If the anion gap is high (>12 mEq/L), there are several potential causes.

High anion gap metabolic acidosis is a form of metabolic acidosis characterized by a high anion gap (a medical value based on the concentrations of ions in a patient's serum). An anion gap is usually considered to be high if it is over 12 mEq/L.

High anion gap metabolic acidosis is caused generally by acid produced by the body. More rarely, high anion gap metabolic acidosis may be caused by ingesting methanol or overdosing on aspirin. The Delta Ratio is a formula that can be used to assess elevated anion gap metabolic acidosis and to evaluate whether mixed acid base disorder (metabolic acidosis) is present.

The list of agents that cause high anion gap metabolic acidosis is similar to but broader than the list of agents that cause a serum osmolal gap.


Causes include:

The newest mnemonic was proposed in "The Lancet" reflecting current causes of anion gap metabolic acidosis:

- G — glycols (ethylene glycol & propylene glycol)

- O — oxoproline, a metabolite of paracetamol

- L — L-lactate, the chemical responsible for lactic acidosis

- D — D-lactate

- M — methanol

- A — aspirin

- R — renal failure

- K — ketoacidosis, ketones generated from starvation, alcohol, and diabetic ketoacidosis

The mnemonic MUDPILES is commonly used to remember the causes of increased anion gap metabolic acidosis.

- M — Methanol

- U — Uremia (chronic kidney failure)

- D — Diabetic ketoacidosis

- P — Paracetamol, Propylene glycol (used as an inactive stabilizer in many medications; historically, the "P" also stood for Paraldehyde, though this substance is not commonly used today)

- I — Infection, Iron, Isoniazid (which can cause lactic acidosis in overdose), Inborn errors of metabolism (an especially important consideration in pediatric patients)

- L — Lactic acidosis

- E — Ethylene glycol (Note: Ethanol is sometimes included in this mnemonic as well, although the acidosis caused by ethanol is actually primarily due to the increased production of lactic acid found in such intoxication.)

- S — Salicylates

Another frequently used mnemonic is KARMEL.

- K — Ketoacidosis

- A — aspirin

- R — Renal failure

- M — Methanol

- E — Ethylene glycol

- L — Lactic acidosis

Another frequently used mnemonic is KULT.

- K — Ketoacidosis (DKA, AKA)

- U — Uremia

- L — Lactic acidosis

- T — Toxins (Ethylene glycol, methanol, as well as drugs, such as aspirin, Metformin)

The preferred mnemonic of D. Robert Dufour, the chief of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is DUMPSALE, which omits the I of MUDPILES as the proposed values of *I* are exceedingly rare in clinical practice.

- D — Diabetic ketoacidosis

- U — Uremia

- M — Methanol

- P — Paraldehyde

- S — Salicylates

- A — Alcoholic ketoacidosis

- L — Lactic acidosis

- E — Ethylene Glycol

The mnemonic for the [rare, in comparison] toxins is ACE GIFTs: Aspirin, Cyanide, Ethanolic ketosis, Glycols [ ethylene and propylene ], Isoniazid, Ferrous iron, Toluene. Most of these cause a lactic acidosis.