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Lithium Blood Test

Last updated May 9, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Lithium Blood Test is used to assess the levels of lithium in blood. It is used when adjusting the initial dose and to ensure that lithium levels stay within an acceptable range.

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

  • Cibalith-S® Blood Test
  • Eskalith® Blood Test
  • Lithane® Blood Test

What is Lithium Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Lithium is an antipsychotic drug used to treat bipolar disorder. It is also known under the brand names Cibalith-S®, Eskalith®, Lithane®, Lithobid®, Lithonate®, and Lithotabs®
  • Bipolar disorder is characterized by bouts of either extreme depression or mania, lasting anywhere from days to years. The causes remain largely unknown, though genetic associations have been identified
  • Lithium is a commonly prescribed drug for bipolar disorder. It is believed to work by altering the import and export of sodium by neurons, such that their breakdown of stress hormones increases. However, the exact mechanism of functioning is unknown
  • Like every other drug, lithium must be kept within a certain range to prevent unwanted effects. If levels are too high, toxicity may result; if levels are too low, the drug may not successfully help treat bipolar disorder
  • The Lithium Blood Test is used to assess the levels of lithium in blood. It is used when adjusting the initial dose and to ensure that lithium levels stay within an acceptable range

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Lithium Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing a Lithium Blood Test:

  • To determine the initial dosage requirement in an individual with bipolar disorder by measuring lithium levels in blood
  • To monitor lithium therapy; to ensure that the antipsychotic drug is within acceptable levels

How is the Specimen Collected for Lithium Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Lithium Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process of obtaining blood sample in adults:

  • A band is wrapped around the arm, 3-4 inches above the collection site (superficial vein that lies within the elbow pit)
  • The site is cleaned with 70% alcohol in an outward spiral, away from the zone of needle insertion
  • The needle cap is removed and is held in line with the vein, pulling the skin tight
  • With a small and quick thrust, the vein is penetrated using the needle
  • The required amount of blood sample is collected, by pulling the plunger of the syringe out slowly
  • The wrap band is removed, gauze is placed on the collection site, and the needle is removed
  • The blood is immediately transferred into the blood container, which has the appropriate preservative/clot activator/anti-coagulant
  • The syringe and the needle are disposed into the appropriate “sharp container” for safe and hygienic disposal

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

What is the Significance of the Lithium Blood Test Result?

Excessive lithium levels may indicate lithium toxicity that is marked by:

  • Drowsiness
  • Stupor
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety

Low lithium levels may indicate that more lithium is necessary to achieve a therapeutic dose.

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:

  • Lithium is known to interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland and kidney. Individuals undergoing lithium therapy may be monitored for thyroid health via the TSH blood test, and for kidney health, via blood urea nitrogen and creatinine blood tests

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.

  • Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder of mood characterized by periods of elevated mood (mania or hypomania) and diminished mood (depression)

The following article link will help you understand bipolar disorder:


Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 15, 2015
Last updated: May 9, 2019