The serum is the part of blood that doesn't contain cells. Sodium, potassium, and chloride levels are usually measured as part of a basic metabolic panel. An electrolyte panel is very useful in assessing acid-base balance in a number of medical conditions. Electrolytes affect a person’s body functions in many ways, including the acidity or alkalinity of the blood, the amount of water in the body and various muscle functions. Potassium is found inside the body's cells. Small amounts of it are also found in the blood plasma. It plays an important role in regulating the heart's rhythm and its ability to contract. Sodium is mainly found outside the body cells. It helps in regulating the amount of water in the body.
Electrolyte testing may be carried out as part of routine blood tests. The blood test for the electrolytic panel doesn’t require any fasting or dietary changes. However, it is best to consult your doctor and follow any specific instructions issued by him/her. Certain medications affect the sodium, potassium and chloride levels in the blood, hence you may be required to stop those medications for a while before the test. You should preferably wear light and comfortable clothing to the diagnostic center.
The procedure is similar to regular blood tests. The skin is cleaned by swabbing with 70% isopropyl alcohol to prevent any contamination. The lab technician then usually wraps an elastic band around your arm close to the venipuncture site to allow your veins to fill with blood. A needle is then used to draw the required number of samples of blood from the vein. After the drawing of the blood, the venipuncture site is covered with a Band-Aid. The blood sample is then submitted to a laboratory where the serum is tested, the test results are usually available within 24 hours.