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Clinical Chemistry

What is clinical chemistry?

Clinical chemistry uses chemical processes to measure levels of chemical components in body fluids. The most common specimens tested in clinical chemistry are blood and urine. Many different tests exist to test for almost any type of chemical component in blood or urine. Components may include blood glucose, electrolytes, enzymes, hormones, lipids (fats), other metabolic substances, and proteins.

What are some common clinical chemistry tests?

The following is a description of some of the most common clinical chemistry tests (used on blood and urine specimens), including some of the uses and indications:

Enzyme

Organ affected

Creatine kinase

Can signal damage to heart muscle or skeletal muscle

CK-MB, an isoenzyme of CK, is used to distinguish heart muscle damage

Alanine aminotransferase (ALT, SGPT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST, SGOT)

Can signal liver disorders

Amylase and lipase

Can signal inflammation or the possibility of cancer of the pancreas

Hormone

Gland Affected

Cortisol

adrenal glands

Thyroxine (T4), TSH

thyroid gland

FSH, ACTH, growth hormones

pituitary gland

Lipid

Organ affected

Total cholesterol

High total cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD)

High-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol)

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol)

High LDL cholesterol is also a risk factor for CVD

High HDL cholesterol is a protective factor against CVD

Triglycerides

High triglycerides are another independent risk factor for CVD

Metabolic product

Organ affected

BUN (blood urea nitrogen)

Creatinine

Kidney function

Uric acid

Can signal gout, kidney disease, and other tissue damage

Protein

Organ affected

Total protein and albumin

Can signal liver or kidney disease, or malnutrition

Globulins and the A/G ratio (albumin to globulin)

Can signal infection, autoimmune disease, inflammation, and certain blood cancers

Often, abnormal blood and urine tests are repeated to make sure there is not a sample error or lab error. Abnormal tests are often followed up by other more specialized tests.