Other names: Electrolyte Profile

Electrolytes are extremely important and have a variety of roles within the body; electrolytes help to maintain the acid-base balance, regulate water balance, move nutrients around the body and remove waste products from the body. The main electrolytes include sodium, potassium and chloride.

When is the test used?

The electrolyte test measures the levels of electrolytes in the blood; it is important for the electrolyte balance to be right because the electrolytes have several important functions in the body. An electrolyte imbalance can contribute to problems with water regulation and acid-base balance.

The test is usually ordered when a patient has symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance or has an illness, which may affect the electrolyte balance. The test may be used as a routine screening test and is commonly used for hospitalised patients.

How is the test done?

The test is performed by taking a blood sample from the arm; a needle in inserted into a vein (usually on the inside of the elbow) and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled and sent away for analysis.

What do the test results mean?

If the test results show an electrolyte imbalance, this will help doctors to diagnose specific conditions; if the levels of specific electrolytes are too high or too low this can determine which condition the patient has. Electrolyte imbalances can also flag up concerns with specific organ problems; for example, low sodium and chloride levels may indicate that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and nerve conditions may also cause irregularities in the levels of certain electrolytes.

Tests may be repeated if a patient has started a course of treatment or is changing their diet; this enables the doctor to see if the treatment of lifestyle change is making a difference to the patient’s condition.

Specific Blood Tests

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