Serum osmolality, osmolality serum
This test measures the concentration of dissolved particles (osmolality) in your blood.
This test can help diagnose a fluid or electrolyte imbalance, including dehydration. Electrolytes are mineral salts that help move nutrients into your cells and waste products out of your cells.
Electrolytes also control your acidity and pH levels. The more dilute your blood and urine are, the lower the concentration of particles. The less water in your blood, the greater the concentration of particles. Osmolality increases when you are dehydrated and decreases when you have a fluid buildup.
Your body has a unique way to control osmolality. When osmolality increases, it triggers your body to make antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Your kidneys then keep more water inside your body and your urine becomes more concentrated. When osmolality decreases, your body doesn't make as much ADH. Your blood and urine become more dilute.
You may have this test if you have seizures or problems with ADH. You may also have this test if you are dehydrated or if your healthcare provider thinks you might have diabetes insipidus. Diabetes insipidus happens when your body makes less ADH. It's also called vasopressin. This condition can also happen if your kidneys are not responding to ADH, even though you are making enough of it. Signs and symptoms of diabetes insipidus include:
Frequent need to urinate
Very dilute urine
Dizziness when standing
Low blood pressure, which can lead to shock and organ failure
You might also have this test if you have symptoms of hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition in which your body retains fluid because it doesn't have enough sodium, an electrolyte. Symptoms of hyponatremia include:
Nausea and vomiting
Spasms or cramps
Seizures or passing out
You may also have this test if you are in a coma. When osmolality increases, it can cause fatal grand mal seizures.
Your healthcare provider may also order a urine osmolality test. The results of both urine osmolality and blood osmolality tests help figure out the cause of osmolality problems.
Your provider may also order:
Antidiuretic hormone test to measure the amount of ADH in your blood
Antidiuretic hormone suppression test to look at problems with ADH
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.
Results are given in milliosmoles per kilogram (mOsm/kg). Normal results are:
285 to 295 mOsm/kg for adults and older adults
275 to 290 mOsm/kg for children
If your levels are higher or lower, it may mean you have one of these conditions:
A level that's beyond normal range may also be caused by blood loss, as from trauma, or prolonged vomiting or diarrhea.
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
Eating a poor diet or drinking too much water can affect your results. Intense exercise and being under stress can also affect your results. Certain medicines and the illicit drug ecstasy can also affect your results.
You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use. Also tell your provider if you have been drinking a lot of water.