What is a Chloride Blood Test?
A chloride blood test measures the amount of chloride in your blood. Chloride is a type of electrolyte. Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that help control the amount of fluids and the balance of acids and bases (pH balance) in your body. Chloride is often measured with other electrolytes to diagnose or monitor conditions, such as kidney disease, heart failure, liver disease, and high blood pressure.
Other names: CI, Serum chloride
What is it used for?
You usually get a chloride test as part of a routine blood screening to check your general health. It's also used to help diagnose conditions related to an imbalance of acids or fluids in your body.
Why do I need a chloride blood test?
Your health care provider may have ordered a chloride blood test as part of an electrolyte panel, which is a routine blood test. An electrolyte panel is a test that measures chloride and other electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate. You may also need a chloride blood test if you have symptoms of an acid or fluid imbalance, including:
- Vomiting over a long period of time
- Trouble breathing
What happens during a chloride blood test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparations for a chloride blood test or an electrolyte panel. If your provider has ordered other blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
There are many reasons why your chloride levels may not be in the normal range.
High levels of chloride may be a sign of:
- Kidney disease
- Metabolic acidosis, a condition in which you have too much acid in your blood. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
Low levels of chloride may be a sign of:
- Heart failure
- Lung disease
- Addison disease, a condition in which your body's adrenal glands don't produce enough of certain types of hormones. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including weakness, dizziness, weight loss, and dehydration.
- Metabolic alkalosis, a condition in which you have too much base in your blood. It can cause irritability, muscle twitching, and tingling in the fingers and toes.
If your chloride levels are not in the normal range, it doesn't always mean you have a medical problem that needs treatment. Many things can affect your chloride levels, such as drinking too much fluid or losing fluid because of vomiting or diarrhea. Also, certain medicines such as antacids can cause abnormal results. To learn what your results mean, talk with your provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Is there anything else I need to know about a chloride blood test?
Urine also contains some chloride. Your provider may also recommend a urine chloride test to get more information about your chloride levels.
- Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth's Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Chloride, Serum; p. 153–4.
- Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Acidosis; [updated 2021 Jul; cited 2022 Feb14]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/acid-base-balance/acidosis
- Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Addison Disease (Addison's Disease; Primary or Chronic Adrenocortical Insufficiency); [last full review 2020 Oct; cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/adrenal-gland-disorders/addison-disease
- Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co Inc.; c2022. Acidosis; [last full review 2021 Jul; cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/acid-base-balance/acidosis
- Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Overview of Acid-Base Balance; [last full review 2021 Jul; cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/acid-base-balance/overview-of-acid-base-balance
- Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Acid-Base Disorders; [last full review 2021 Jul; cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 6 screens]. Available from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/acid-base-regulation-and-disorders/acid-base-disorders
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests; [cited 2017 Mar 12]; [about 16 screens]. Available from: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
- Testing.com [Internet]. OneCare Media; c2020. Chloride: The Test; [updated 2022 Jan 24; cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 10 screens]. Available from: https://www.testing.com/tests/chloride
- University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Chloride; [cited 2022 Feb 14]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=chloride
The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.