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Interpreting Results

Overview of Li

What is Li?

Lithium (Li+) is an element which is used as an antipsychotic drug to treat bipolar disorder and mania, as well as in some other psychological diseases like depression as an augmenting agent. The Lithium Test is performed to measure the concentration of lithium in blood.

Why is Li done?

The Lithium Test is performed:

·         To establish a therapeutic dosage for lithium

·         To monitor blood concentration at regular intervals to help maintain the therapeutic concentration

·         To check for lithium toxicity upon the appearance of symptoms

What does Li Measure?

Lithium is an alkali metal which occurs in trace amounts in the human body mainly obtained from dietary sources. Lithium compounds are used as antipsychotic drugs for the treatment of the Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disease is a psychological condition where the patient goes through alternating periods of severe depression and mania. It is thus associated with sudden and unpredictable mood swings. Lithium is prescribed as a mood stabilizer to treat these sudden mood swings. It is also used as an augmenting agent for patients being treated for depression but not responding to standard medications. Lithium may also be prescribed for other psychological diseases as an augmenting agent.

Lithium is a drug which acts relatively slowly and may take several weeks to be effective in treatment. Hence, its concentration in blood needs to be maintained within a steady therapeutic range for it to be effective as a drug. Lower concentrations than the therapeutic range make it ineffective as medicine, while higher concentration than the therapeutic range causes lithium toxicity. The blood level of lithium is thus monitored at regular intervals to help maintain it within the effective therapeutic range.

Preparation for Li

  • No special preparation required

Sample Type for Li

The sample type collected for Lithium is: Blood

Interpreting Li results


Therapeutic range: 0.6 to 1.2 mmol/L

The standard therapeutic range of lithium concentration may vary from person to person and is usually established at the beginning of the treatment.

Lower lithium concentration than the therapeutic range makes the drug ineffective in treatment.

Higher lithium concentration than the therapeutic range induces symptoms associated with lithium toxicity.

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Li

Frequently Asked Questions about Lithium

Q. How is this test performed?
This test is performed on a blood sample. A syringe with a fine needle is used to withdraw blood sample from a blood vessel in your arm generally from the inner side of the elbow area. The doctor, nurse or the phlebotomist will tie an elastic band around your arm which will help the blood vessels to swell with blood. This makes it easier to withdraw blood. You may be asked to tightly clench your fist. Once the veins are clearly visible, the area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then the needle is inserted into the blood vessel to collect the sample. You may feel a tiny pinprick during the procedure. Blood sample once collected is then sent to the laboratory.
Q. Is there any risk associated with this test?
There is no risk associated with the test. However, since this test involves a needle prick to withdraw the blood sample, in very rare cases, a patient may experience increased bleeding, hematoma formation (blood collection under the skin), bruising or infection at the site of needle prick.
Q. What are the symptoms of lithium toxicity?
Lithium toxicity may occur if the lithium concentration in your blood is higher than the therapeutic range. Symptoms of lithium toxicity include: · Fatigue and drowsiness · Gastrointestinal problems including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea · Slurring of speech · Confusion · Dizziness · Loss of coordination · Muscle weakness · Restlessness · Shivering · Seizures Very high concentration of lithium in blood may cause renal failure and even death.
Q. When can false results appear in the Lithium Test?
False results may appear in the lithium test if the test is not performed at the trough level. Certain medications may affect the levels of lithium in blood. Loss of salt and water from the body due to excessive sweating, vomiting, etc. may affect lithium levels. Consumption of alcohol can also affect lithium concentration in blood.
Q. What other tests can be prescribed by your doctor in case the result of Lithium test is not normal?
Others tests that may be prescribed upon appearance of an abnormal result in the blood lithium test include: · Electrolyte Panel Tests · Kidney Function Tests · TSH Test
Q. What are the risks associated with lithium medication in pregnant women?
Use of lithium drugs during pregnancy can show some serious adverse effects on both the baby and the mother, including: · Risk of improper development of the heart · Risk of a stillborn child or death of the child soon after birth · Risk of lithium toxicity in the mother due to hormonal changes Lithium may also be passed on to the baby during breastfeeding and may have undesirable effects to the baby.
Q. Is there any preparation required before the Lithium test?
Inform the doctor about any medications you may be taking as certain medications may affect the test results. The test is usually performed after about 12 hours from the last dose taken, at which point the concentration in blood is lowest and is said to be at trough level. No other preparations are required unless specified by your doctor.
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Established in 1995, Lifecare is the country's premier full-service diagnostic center with laboratory, providing expertise in imaging and digital pathology services. Our integrated diagnostic services help doctors personalize patient care to optimally treat disease and maintain health and wellness. We are committed to providing only the highest level of testing quality and service and working with you to provide unique solutions to your most challenging needs. A highly skilled team of medical professionals including physicians, scientists, medical technologists, medical technicians, lab assistants, biologists, chemists, microbiologists, geneticists, and other specialists work collaboratively. The department receives specimens for testing from patients and collection centers and is a reference laboratory for other clinics and hospitals both nationally and internationally. Lifecare's mission is to support the local delivery of laboratory services through the provision of exceptional reference laboratory services and by providing support services that facilitate and augment community integration efforts. We ensure Quality control programs that exceed industry guidelines for every patient sample. Proactive internal quality control team consisting of pathologists and laboratory personnel ensuring consistency and accuracy of specimen processing and diagnosis Our staff recognizes that specimens are patients, not just accession numbers in our lab. They are dedicated to combining the newest technologies, expertise, and quality in every sample they process.

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