Other names: Total CO2; TCO2

Bicarbonate is an electrolyte, which is both excreted and reabsorbed by the kidneys; it is responsible for helping to control the pH balance. Bicarbonate also works alongside sodium, potassium and chloride to ensure the balance of electrolytes is stable.

Why is the test used?

The bicarbonate test is primarily used to test for electrolyte or pH (acid to base balance) imbalances in the body. The bicarbonate test may be done as part of an electrolyte panel.

The test is usually ordered for patients who are experiencing symptoms of an electrolyte or pH imbalance, including weakness, muscle spasms, confusion, dizziness, fatigue and changes in blood pressure.

The test may also be ordered alongside a routine blood test.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by collecting a sample of blood from a vein in the arm. The blood is usually taken from a vein on the inside of the elbow; the sample is collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will bottled, sealed, labelled with the patient’s name and then sent away to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results show?

Variations from the normal level of bicarbonate may indicate that the body is having difficulty controlling the pH balance or there is an electrolyte imbalance; these imbalances may be caused by several different health conditions, including:

Low levels of bicarbonate:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (this is an abnormal increase in the proportion of acid in the blood, which is usually caused by a lack of insulin)

High levels of bicarbonate:

  • Cushing’s syndrome (this is a condition caused by overproduction of cortisol, which is a steroid hormone that helps to control blood pressure and aids metabolism)
  • Conn’s syndrome (this is a condition which is associated with hypertension {high blood pressure} and is caused by the over-excretion of aldosterone from the adrenal glands)
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Lung disease

Specific Blood Tests

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved