This is a test to detect a problem with the body's fluid and electrolyte balance.
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are found in body tissues and blood in the form of dissolved salts. They help move nutrients into and wastes out of the body's cells. They also maintain a healthy water balance, and help stabilize the body's pH level. The electrolyte panel measures the main electrolytes in the body: sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-) and carbon dioxide (total CO2).
PREPARATION FOR TEST
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
Your lab will provide a range of normal values with your test results.
Ranges for normal findings may vary among different laboratories and hospitals. You should always check with your doctor after having lab work or other tests done to discuss the meaning of your test results and whether your values are considered within normal limits.
MEANING OF TEST
Your caregiver will go over your test results with you and discuss the importance of this test. In specific disorders, 1 or more electrolytes may be in an abnormal concentration. Your doctor will look at the overall balance but is especially concerned with your sodium and potassium levels. People whose kidneys are not functioning properly, for example, may retain excess fluid in the body, diluting the sodium and chloride so that they fall below normal concentrations. Those who experience severe fluid loss may show an increase in potassium, sodium and chloride. Some forms of heart disease, muscle and nerve problems and diabetes may also have one or more abnormal electrolytes.
OBTAINING TEST RESULTS
It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask the lab or department performing the test when and how you will get your results.