Eletrolytes are electrically charged ions or salts that are found in the bloodstream. They play an essential role in most body functions.

We frequently measure the 4 most common electrolytes, as part of a grouping referred to as "Lytes". They include: sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-). Changes in the electrolyte concentration can occur for a variety of reasons. We monitor them carefully and adjust intravenous therapy to maintain normal concentrations.Other electolytes are also measured, including: calcium (Ca++), phosphate (PO4--) and magnesium (Mg++).

Levels of some of these electrolytes will often become low. We correct these levels by giving intravenous replacement, or by adding them into a patient's feeding. Potassium is an electrolyte that is important to the heart; it the one that is replaced the most frequently.

Electrolyte levels can also become too high under certain conditions. The kidney plays an important role in maintaining electrolyte balance. Kidney failure is a common reason for electrolyte abnormalities.






Last Reviewed: October 23, 2014