The purpose is to check electrolyte, fluid or pH imbalance. It is performed as routine check-ups. The tests include sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate BUN, creatinine and glucose tests. These measurements are helpful in providing causes of electrolyte imbalances such as dehydration, kidney disease, lung diseases, or heart conditions. Electrolyte and pH imbalance can cause number of diseases and common symptom of these disorders are fluid accumulation, nausea or vomiting, weakness, confusion, irregular heartbeat.
Untreated electrolyte imbalance can lead to serious complications such as changes in blood pressure and problems in the central nervous system (irritability, confusion, lethargy, seizures, and convulsions) and peripheral nervous systems (numbness, muscle spasm, and weakness). It will also cause musculoskeletal problems and disorders. Electrolyte imbalance also affects the gastrointestinal system and can cause stomach pain and constipation.
If these symptoms are present, you may want to have an electrolyte panel test to check for electrolyte imbalance and get proper treatment as soon as possible.
How to Prepare for an Electrolyte Panel Test
Fasting is required before an electrolyte panel test is performed, so no food or liquid for at least eight hours before the procedure. Also, you may want to stop your medications prior to the test since this could affect the results. To be sure though, before you have the test, talk with your physician.
The area where blood will be drawn will be swabbed with an alcohol-soaked cotton, and a needle will be inserted to draw blood. After a blood sample has been taken, it will then be sent to the laboratory for analysis of your electrolyte panel blood test.
What the Results Mean
Below are the normal values of an electrolyte panel test as well as the possible causes for the abnormality in their levels:
Creatinine level should be between 0.8 and 1.4 mg/dL. Increased creatinine means kidney and muscle problems. It is also a sign of preeclampsia. Decreased creatinine means muscular dystrophy.
BUN level should be between 7 and 20 mg/dL. Increased BUN means kidney problems, while decreased BUN means liver problems.
Glucose level should be between 64 and 128 mg/dL. Increased glucose means diabetes or hyperthyroidism, while decreased glucose means hypothyroidism.
Calcium level should be 8.5 and 10.2 mg/dL. Increased calcium means parathyroid gland problem or cancer; while decreased calcium means kidney, pancreas, or liver problems.
Potassium level should be 3.7 and 5.2 mEq/L. Increased potassium means kidney problems; while decreased potassium means hormonal problems.
Sodium level should be between 136 and 144 mEq/L. Increased sodium means hormonal problems or Diabetes Insipidus; while decreased sodium means hormonal disorders as well.
Carbon dioxide or bicarbonate should be between 20 and 29 mmol/L. Increased level means lung and hormonal problems; while decreased level means kidney problems.
Chloride level should be 101 and 111 mmol/L. Increased chloride means kidney problems; while decreased chloride means heart and hormonal problems.
The electrolyte panel blood test though cannot identify a disease, but can only help in identifying which organ is diseased or damaged. Other laboratory tests will be helpful in making a proper diagnosis.
Common Electrolyte Panel Test Questions
Can you explain what the anion gap is?
In a nutshell, the anion gap is the difference between the cations which are sodium and potassium and the anions which are chloride and carbon dioxide. The normal value of the anion gap is usually 8 to 16 mEq/L. The calculated value is important in the electrolyte panel blood test because it can tell whether the patient is in a state of metabolic acidosis or not.
How is electrolyte imbalance treated?
Treatment is through correcting the imbalance of the electrolytes.
LabEspy recommends Lab Testing API, Walk-In Lab, Health Testing Centers for this test.