Ammonia Level Test: Understanding its Importance and Process

Discover the importance of an Ammonia Level Test and how it measures ammonia levels in your blood. Learn how elevated levels can indicate serious health issues.

The Ammonia Level Test is a medical examination that measures the level of ammonia in your blood. Ammonia is a waste product produced by the body during the breakdown of proteins. High levels of ammonia can indicate liver or kidney dysfunction, making this test crucial in diagnosing and monitoring various conditions. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why an ammonia test is necessary, what happens during the test, the preparations required beforehand, and the interpretation of the test results.


The Ammonia Level Test is conducted to evaluate the concentration of ammonia in the blood. Ammonia, also referred to as NH3, is a byproduct produced by your body when protein are digested. Typically, the liver normally converts ammonia into urea, another waste product that is excreted through urine.

However, if your body faces difficulty in processing or eliminating ammonia, it can accumulate in the bloodstream. Elevated levels of ammonia in the blood can have severe health consequences, including brain damage, coma, and potentially even fatal outcomes.

hepatic disease is the primary cause of heightened ammonia levels in the blood. Other factors that can contribute to increased ammonia levels include kidney failure and certain genetic disorders.

Table of contents

Test name Description
Ammonia test A blood test that measures the amount of ammonia in the blood
Normal range  15-45 μg/dL or 11-32 mmol/L
High levels This may indicate a problem with the liver, kidneys, or a genetic disorder
Additional tests May be ordered to determine the cause of high ammonia levels
Other names NH3 test, blood ammonia test, serum ammonia, and plasma ammonia

Why do I need an Ammonia Level Test?

  1. Liver Function Evaluation: The ammonia test helps assess the liver’s ability to convert ammonia into urea, which is then eliminated from the body through urine. Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, can impair this process, leading to an accumulation of ammonia.
  2. Kidney Function Assessment: Kidney dysfunction can also cause elevated levels of ammonia in the blood. The ammonia test aids in determining if the kidneys are effectively filtering ammonia from the bloodstream.
  3. Monitoring of Treatment: For individuals undergoing treatment for liver or kidney diseases, the ammonia test is frequently used to monitor the effectiveness of medications and interventions.

Your doctor may order an ammonia test if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Trouble breathing

An ammonia test may also be ordered if you have a liver disease, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis.

“Related: Protein in Urine Test. Why Is Proteinuria Tested?

What happens during the test?

An ammonia test is a simple blood test. A healthcare professional will insert a needle into a vein in your arm and a small sample of blood will be collected. The specimen will then be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Preparations before the Ammonia Level Test

There are no special preparations required for an ammonia test. However, you should tell your doctor if you are taking any medications, especially antibiotics or anticonvulsants.

Interpreting the results

Ammonia Level Test is crucial in understanding the implications for your health. Here’s a breakdown of how to interpret the results:

  • Normal level: Blood ammonia levels within the normal range indicate that your liver and kidneys are functioning properly. In general, the reference range for ammonia levels falls between 15 to 45 μg/dL or 11 to 32 mmol/L. If your results fall within this range, it suggests that your body is effectively processing and eliminating ammonia.
  • Elevated Blood ammonia: If your ammonia levels are higher than the normal range, it may indicate liver dysfunction or impaired kidney function. Elevated ammonia levels can also be caused by certain underlying medical conditions. It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the cause and establish an appropriate treatment plan. High ammonia levels can pose serious health risks, including potential damage to the brain, coma, and even death.
  • Low Levels: While rare, low levels of ammonia can sometimes occur. Low ammonia levels may be associated with specific genetic disorders or conditions affecting ammonia metabolism. If your results show abnormally low ammonia levels, additional tests may be necessary to further investigate and diagnose the underlying cause.

Remember, it is crucial to discuss and interpret your ammonia test results with your healthcare provider. They will take into account your medical history, symptoms, and other relevant factors to provide an accurate assessment and guide you through any necessary further investigations or treatment options.

Related tests

In addition to the Ammonia Level Test, there are several related tests that may be conducted to provide a comprehensive evaluation of liver and kidney function and to further investigate the underlying causes of abnormal ammonia levels. These related tests include:

  • Liver Function Tests (LFTs): These tests assess various liver enzymes, proteins, and other substances in the blood to evaluate overall liver function. LFTs may include measurements of alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), bilirubin, and albumin levels.
  • Kidney Function Tests: These tests are performed to assess how well the kidneys are functioning. They often include measurements of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Abnormal kidney function can contribute to elevated ammonia levels.
  • Electrolyte Panel: An electrolyte panel measures the levels of important electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, in the blood. Imbalances in electrolyte levels can affect kidney function and potentially influence ammonia levels.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC provides information about different components of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Abnormalities in blood cell counts can indicate certain medical conditions that may impact ammonia metabolism.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging studies, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be ordered to assess the structure and condition of the liver and kidneys. These tests can help identify any structural abnormalities or damage that could contribute to elevated ammonia levels.
  • Genetic Testing: In cases where genetic disorders are suspected, genetic testing may be performed to identify specific gene mutations or abnormalities associated with impaired ammonia metabolism.

It’s important to note that the specific tests ordered will depend on your individual medical history, symptoms, and the clinical judgment of your healthcare provider. These related tests work in conjunction with the ammonia test to provide a comprehensive assessment of your liver and kidney function and to determine the underlying cause of any abnormalities in ammonia levels.

Ammonia Level Test is a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose a number of health problems. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, talk to your doctor about getting an ammonia test.

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