• Ways to Give
  • Job Opportunities
  • Patient Portal
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
Print    Email
Search Health Information   

Calcium - ionized

Definition

Ionized calcium is calcium that is freely flowing in your blood and not attached to proteins. It is also called free calcium.

All cells need calcium in order to work. Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. It is important for heart function, and helps with muscle contraction, nerve signaling, and blood clotting.

This article discusses the test used to measure the amount of ionized calcium in blood.

See also: Serum calcium

Alternative Names

Free calcium; Ionized calcium

How the test is performed

Usually the blood is drawn from the wrist. However, it may also be drawn from the inside of the elbow, groin, or other artery. A heartbeat (pulse) is felt by pressing on the area above an artery. The doctor will usually check to make sure blood is flowing into the hand from the main arteries in the forearm (radial and ulnar arteries).

The area is cleaned with antiseptic and a needle is inserted. A small amount of anesthetic may be injected or applied before the needle is inserted. The blood will easily flow into the specially prepared (heparinized) syringe.

The needle is removed after there is enough of a blood sample. Pressure is applied to the puncture site for 5 - 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. You will be checked during this time to make sure the bleeding stops.

How to prepare for the test

You should not eat or drink for at least 6 hours before the test. Your doctor may tell you to temporarily stop taking any drugs that can affect the test results. Calcium salts, hydralazine, lithium, thiazide diuretics, and thyroxine can increase your level of ionized calcium.

Never stop taking any medicine without first talking to your doctor.

Why the test is performed

Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of kidney or parathyroid disease. The test may also be done to monitor persons who have already been diagnosed with such diseases.

Usually, blood tests measure your total calcium level, which looks at both ionized calcium and calcium attached to proteins. You may need to have a separate ionized calcium test if you have factors that increase or decrease total calcium levels, such as abnormal blood levels albumin or immunoglobulins.

Normal Values

Normal values may vary slightly from laboratory to laboratory.

  • Children: 4.4 - 6.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • Adults: 4.4 - 5.3 mg/dL

What abnormal results mean

Greater-than-normal levels may be due to:

Lower-than-normal levels may be due to:

References

Fukagawa M, Kurokawa K, Papadakis MA. Fluid & electrolyte disorders. In: McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA, Tierney LM Jr. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2007. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2007.

Wysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. The parathyroid glands, hypercalcemia, and hypocalcemia. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 266.


Review Date: 8/31/2010
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine (5/13/2009).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 

Specialty: