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Creatine Kinase Blood Test

Last updated April 8, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Creatine Kinase Blood Test is a test to assess the levels of creatine kinase. It is used to identify the presence and timing of muscle damage; though, it cannot determine the location of the damage.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • CK Blood Test
  • CPK Blood Test
  • Total CK Blood Test

What is Creatine Kinase Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Creatine kinase (CK) is an enzyme present mostly in the muscles. It is also present in the bran, in smaller amounts. CK is used by cells for energy production and storage. It escapes into the blood stream, when these tissues are damaged
  • The role of any muscle is to contract and relax. This causes different actions, depending on the type of muscle. There are 3 muscle types, grouped according to their distribution and characteristics:
    • Skeletal muscles, which move the body and regulate the opening and closing of passageways. The biceps and certain sphincter muscles are skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are under voluntary control
    • Cardiac muscles that circulate blood; these are found only in the heart
    • Smooth muscles that provide the tissues with elasticity and support. They are found underneath the skin, surrounding the intestines, and in a variety of other places
  • The skeletal muscles and cardiac muscles are striated. This means that they are organized as repeating structural units. As opposed to non-striated smooth muscles, skeletal muscles and cardiac muscles contain significant levels of creatine kinase
  • When damaged, the membranes of muscles leak their contents to the surrounding area, which includes CK. Thus, elevated CK levels in blood indicate damage to the muscles, someplace in the body
  • The Creatine Kinase Blood Test is a test to assess the levels of creatine kinase. It is used to identify the presence and timing of muscle damage; though, it cannot determine the location of the damage
  • Creatine kinase is further subdivided into isoenzymes, which perform similar functions, but differ in structure. These are CK-MM, CK-BB, and CK-MB
  • The CK isoenzymes are unevenly distributed in different muscles. CK-MM is concentrated in skeletal muscles, while CK-MB is concentrated in the cardiac muscles
  • The significance of an uneven CK isoenzyme distribution is that a follow-up test to a general Creatine Kinase Blood Test could assess CK isoenzyme levels, in order to help determine the site of muscle damage

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Creatine Kinase Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing a Creatine Kinase Blood Test:

  • Diagnosing a recent heart attack, marked by:
    • Chest pain and tightness
    • Dizziness
    • Jaw pain
  • Evaluating the success of a heart procedure
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscular weakness
  • Extreme loss of muscle size (atrophy)
  • Lack of balance and coordination

How is the Specimen Collected for Creatine Kinase Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Creatine Kinase Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process: Insertion of a needle into an arm vein.

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Creatine Kinase Blood Test Result?

Increased creatine kinase (CK) levels may indicate:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI)
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Infectious disease
  • Loss of blood supply to a muscle
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Myocarditis
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Tetanus
  • Severe trauma

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

Several factors influence the levels of creatine kinase in blood. These include:

  • Race and ethnic group
  • Age and gender
  • Climate
  • Exercise; the level of physical activity one performs (regularly)

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 13, 2014
Last updated: April 8, 2019