To detect a problem with your body’s electrolyte balance.
When to be tested?
As part of a routine health check or when your healthcare provider suspects that you have an electrolyte imbalance (usually sodium or potassium) or an acid-base imbalance
A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm
Is it necessary for test preparation?
No, it is not necessary.
Electrolytes are minerals found in body tissues and blood in the form of dissolved salts. As electrically charged particles, electrolytes help move nutrients in and out of the body’s cells, maintain a healthy water balance, and help stabilize the body’s acid/base (pH) level.
The electrolyte panel measures the blood level of the main electrolytes in the body:
- Sodium – Most of the body’s sodium is found in the fluid outside the body’s cells, where it helps regulate the amount of water in the body.
- Potassium – this electrolyte is found mainly inside the cells of the body. A small but essential amount of potassium is found in plasma, the liquid part of the blood. Potassium plays an important role in regulating muscle contraction. Potassium monitoring is important as small changes in potassium levels can affect heart rate and contractility.
- Chloride – this electrolyte moves in and out of cells to help maintain electrical neutrality (concentrations of positively charged cations and negatively charged anions should be equal) and its level usually reflects that of sodium. Due to its close association with sodium, chloride also helps regulate the distribution of water in the body.
- Bicarbonate – The main job of bicarbonate (or total CO2, a bicarbonate estimate), which is released and reabsorbed by the kidneys, is to help maintain a stable pH level (acid-base balance) and, secondly, to help in maintaining electrical neutrality. Bicarbonate also plays an important role in the transport of CO2: a large portion of CO2 produced by body tissues is transported in the blood like bicarbonate to the lungs, where it is excreted.
The foods you eat and the fluids you drink provide the sodium, potassium, and chloride your body needs. The kidneys help maintain proper levels by reabsorbing or eliminating them in the urine. The lungs provide oxygen and regulate CO2. CO2 is produced by the body and is in equilibrium with bicarbonate. The overall balance of these chemicals is an indicator of the functional well-being of some basic body functions. They are important for maintaining a wide range of body functions, including heart and skeletal muscle contractions and nerve signaling.
Normal pH should be maintained within a narrow range of 7.35-7.45 and electrolytes should be in equilibrium to ensure the proper functioning of metabolic processes and delivery of the proper amount of oxygen to tissues.