Other names: Camcolit; Li-Liquid; Priadel; Liskonum

Lithium is a drug, which is used to treat patients with bipolar disorder. The lithium test is used to measure levels of lithium in the blood; the target range is very narrow so the levels must be monitored closely.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition, which causes a person to change moods very quickly; typically, patients go through phases of feeling manic and depressed and have little control of their emotions. Lithium helps to stabilise and regulate moods; it may also be used for patients with depression, who are not responding to other treatments.

When is the test used?

The test is used to measure the levels of lithium in the blood; the test is used to check that the level of the drug in the blood is within the target therapeutic range. If levels are too high, this may cause toxic effects; if levels are too low, the drug may not be effective.

The test is usually ordered on a regular basis once the patient has started lithium treatment; the tests will be repeated a number of times to ensure that the drug is being administered in the right dosage.

The test may also be ordered if a patient has symptoms of toxicity and the doctor suspects that they have levels of lithium that are too high.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the patient’s arm; the needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the blood has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled and sent off for testing.

The test is usually carried out at a specific time of day, with the test usually being ordered around 12 hours after the last dose; the doctor will discuss the timing of the test with the patient before the test is carried out.

What do the test results mean?

The target range for lithium treatment is between 0.6 and 1.2 mmol/L; if the levels are outside of this range, the patient’s dosage may need to be altered. If levels are too low, this may mean that the drug is not effective; if levels are too high, this may lead to symptoms related to toxicity. If a patient’s level is towards the lower end of the therapeutic range and the patient is still suffering severe effects of bipolar disorder, the doctor may increase the dose.

Most patients do not suffer from negative side-effects when their lithium levels are within the target range; however, everyone is different and some people may experience side-effects.

Certain types of medication (including over the counter drugs) can affect lithium levels; for this reason, it is important that the patient tells the doctor about any medication they are taking or have recently taken so this can be taken into account when the test results are evaluated.

Specific Blood Tests

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