Other names: Inorganic Phosphate; Phosphorus; PO4; P

The phosphate serum test is used to measure the amount of inorganic phosphate in the blood plasma. Phosphates are formed when phosphorus combines with oxygen; this combination forms a variety of different phosphates.

Phosphates have a variety of important roles in the body and are involved in the production of energy, bone growth and muscle and nerve function. Phosphates also play an important role in maintaining the acid-base balance in the body. Most of the phosphate in the body (around 70-80 percent) combines with calcium to form bones and teeth.

Most of the phosphate in the body is taken in through the diet; foods that contain phosphate include meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, cereals and pulses.

When is the test used?

The test may be used to monitor the condition of patients who have health conditions, which affect the absorption of phosphates, calcium and magnesium. The test can also be used as a diagnostic tool for people with kidney disorders. The test may also be used to assess the condition of a malnourished person.

The test is usually ordered when a doctor suspects that a patient has a condition which is affecting the absorption and use of calcium in the body. The test may also be used when a patient has symptoms of digestive or kidney disorders or problems relating to hormones.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the arm; a needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe. Once the doctor has a sufficient sample, the blood will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent off to the laboratory for analysis.

A urine test may also be conducted; the sample will be collected over a 24 hour period.

What do the test results mean?

Low phosphate levels are rare; however, they may be present in individuals who drink heavily on a regular basis and those who suffer from malnourishment. Low levels of phosphate may also be associated with the following health conditions:

  • High levels of calcium
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
  • Low levels of potassium
  • Long-term use of antacids
  • Severe burns
  • Rickets

High levels of phosphate may be caused by many different factors, including:

  • Kidney failure
  • Hypoparathyroidism (underactive parathyroid gland)
  • Low levels of calcium
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

Certain types of food, including ready-made food and fizzy drinks contain high levels of phosphate, which may contribute to over-consumption of phosphates.

Specific Blood Tests

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