Chemical Blood Tests: Terminology

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  • 0:00 Blood Tests
  • 0:40 Lipid Panel
  • 2:15 Serum Bilirubin Test
  • 3:20 TSH Assay
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson addresses the various tests that are done to check the chemical composition of blood. We will become familiar with the normal ranges and learn what abnormal ranges could indicate for a patient.

Blood Tests

Our blood is often referred to as the river of life. It serves as a highway for transporting nutrients, oxygen, wastes, and other materials through the body. Since the blood carries these different substances, it can give some very good insight into the status of our body.

One way that we as healthcare professionals evaluate the body is through different blood tests. There are three main categories for the blood tests that may be done. Physical tests look at the various physical properties of the blood. The blood count tests determine the amounts of the different blood cells. The last category is the chemical blood tests that tell which chemicals are present and the amount of the chemicals.

Lipid Panel

The first of the chemical blood tests is the lipid panel. You will sometimes see this test called the complete cholesterol test or lipid profile. This panel tests the levels of different types of fat in the blood. When you first hear the word 'fat,' you probably think about the fat that you can see on your body that you may sometimes battle to lose. That body fat is called triglycerides. This comes directly from the foods and drinks that we consume. The normal range for triglycerides is anything less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

HDL or high-density lipoprotein, normally referred to as good cholesterol, is also measured in the panel and the normal range is 40-50 mg/dL for males and 50-59 mg/dL for females. The ideal range for HDL is higher than 60 mg/dL for males and females. Keep in mind that this is the good cholesterol, so more HDL is better. Low-density lipoprotein or LDL, often called the bad cholesterol, should be less than 100 mg/dL.

The last measurement taken is the total cholesterol or all cholesterol in the blood. The norm for this is less than 200 mg/dL. Abnormal levels of fat in the blood means patients have a higher risk for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

Serum Bilirubin Test

Our next chemical blood test is the serum bilirubin test, which determines the amount of bilirubin in the blood. 'Bilirubin' may be a strange term to you, so let's find out what it is. Bilirubin is the yellow-colored pigment that is produced and excreted in bile as the liver breaks down old red blood cells. The normal range for total bilirubin is .3-1.9 mg/dL.

When bilirubin levels increase, this causes the patient to experience jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. The amount of bilirubin may be high due to liver problems such as hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. A really high bilirubin reading may mean the patient has problems such as stones or cancer in the gallbladder, or pancreatic cancer. I want to point out that it is common for newborns to have a slightly higher than normal bilirubin level for the first few days to a week of life.

TSH Assay

Our last chemical test is the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) assay, which measures the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone in the blood. TSH is responsible for controlling the release of T3 and T4 from the thyroid, which controls metabolism in the body. The expected values differ based on the age of the patient. The newborn range is 1-39 milli-units per milliliter (mU/mL). Children should have levels between .7-6.4 mU/mL and adults should have between .4-4.2 mU/mL.

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