Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Osmolality - blood test

Osmolality is a test that measures the concentration of all chemical particles found in the fluid part of blood.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

Do not eat for 6 hours before the test. Your doctor may tell you to temporarily stop taking any medicines that may interfere with test results. Such medicines may include water pills (diuretics).

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. These soon go away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test helps check your body's water balance. Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of any of the following:

  • Low sodium (hyponatremia ) or water loss
  • Poisoning from harmful substances such as ethanol, methanol, or ethylene glycol
  • Problems producing urine

In healthy people, when osmolality in the blood becomes high, the body releases antidiuretic hormone (ADH).

This hormone causes the kidneys to reabsorb water. This results in more concentrated urine. The reabsorbed water dilutes the blood. This allows blood osmolality to fall back to normal.

Low blood osmolality suppresses ADH. This reduces how much water the kidneys reabsorb. Dilute urine is passed to get rid of the excess water, which increases blood osmolality back toward normal.

Normal Results

Normal values range from 275 to 295 milliosmoles per kilogram.

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Higher than normal levels may be due to:

Lower than normal levels may be due to:

  • ADH oversecretion
  • Adrenal gland not working very well
  • Conditions linked to lung cancer
  • Drinking too much water or dilute fluid
  • Low sodium level (hyponatremia )
  • Underactive thyroid gland

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Oh MS. Evaluation of renal function, water, electrolytes, and acid-base balance. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 14.

Pincus MR, Abraham NZ Jr. Toxicology and therapeutic drug monitoring. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 23.

Updated: 8/4/2013

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com