Chloride Blood Test

Overview

What is a chloride blood test?

A chloride blood test (serum chloride) measures the level of chloride in your blood.

Chloride is one of the electrolytes in your blood. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge when they are dissolved in a liquid. The electrolytes in your blood — chloride, sodium, potassium and bicarbonate — help control nerve and muscle function and maintain the acid-base balance (pH balance) of your blood and your water balance.

The amount of chloride in your blood is often measured along with other electrolytes to diagnose or monitor certain medical conditions, including:

What is a chloride blood test used for?

Healthcare providers usually don’t order individual chloride blood tests. Chloride blood tests are usually included in the following routine blood tests and screenings that measure multiple things in your blood:

  • Complete metabolic panel (CMP).
  • Basic metabolic panel (BMP).
  • Electrolyte panel.

The results of a chloride blood test, alongside the results of other electrolyte tests, can help diagnose a condition related to an imbalance of acids or fluids in your body.

Why do I need a chloride blood test?

Your healthcare provider may have ordered a chloride blood test as part of a routine blood panel.

Your healthcare provider may also order a chloride blood test if you have symptoms of an acid or fluid imbalance, including:

  • Experiencing multiple instances of vomiting.
  • Having diarrhea.
  • Feeling very tired (fatigue).
  • Feeling weak.
  • Experiencing dehydration.
  • Having difficulty breathing (respiratory distress).

Who performs a chloride blood test?

A healthcare provider called a phlebotomist usually does blood draws, including those for a chloride blood test, but any healthcare provider who is trained in drawing blood can perform this task. The samples are sent to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares them and performs tests on machines known as analyzers.

Test Details

How do I prepare for my chloride blood test?

You don't need any special preparations for a chloride blood test or an electrolyte panel.

Your chloride blood test may be part of a basic or comprehensive metabolic panel, which measures multiple things in your blood. In this case, you may need to not eat or drink (fast) for several hours before your blood draw. In any case, your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to follow any special instructions.

What should I expect during my chloride blood test?

You can expect to experience the following during a blood test, or blood draw:

  • You’ll sit in a chair, and a healthcare provider will check your arms for an easily accessible vein. This is usually in the inner part of your arm on the other side of your elbow.
  • Once they’ve located a vein, they’ll clean and disinfect the area.
  • They’ll then insert a small needle into your vein to take a blood sample. This may feel like a small pinch.
  • After they insert the needle, a small amount of blood will collect in a test tube.
  • Once they have enough blood to test, they’ll remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the site to stop the bleeding.
  • They’ll place a bandage over the site, and you’ll be finished.

The entire procedure usually takes fewer than five minutes.

What should I expect after my chloride blood test?

After a healthcare provider has collected your blood sample, they’ll send it to a laboratory for testing. Once the test results are back, your healthcare provider will share the results with you.

What are the risks of a chloride blood test?

Blood tests are a very common and essential part of medical testing and screening. There’s very little risk to having blood tests. You may have slight tenderness or a bruise at the site of the blood draw, but this usually resolves quickly.

Results and Follow-Up

What type of results do you get for a chloride blood test?

Blood test reports, including chloride blood test reports, usually provide the following information:

  • The name of the blood test or what was measured in your blood.
  • The number or measurement of your blood test result.
  • The normal measurement range for that test.
  • Information that indicates if your result is normal or abnormal or high or low.

What is a normal chloride blood test result?

A typical normal range for a chloride blood test for an adult is 96 to 106 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) or 96 to 106 millimoles per liter. However, laboratories may have different reference ranges for normal chloride levels. When you get your blood test results back, there will be information that indicates what that lab’s normal blood chloride range is. If you have any questions about your results, be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

What does a low chloride level mean?

If your results reveal that you have lower-than-normal levels of chloride in your blood, it may indicate that you have:

It’s important to remember that a low chloride result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical condition. Certain situations and medications can also increase your chloride levels.

What does a high chloride level mean?

If your results reveal that you have higher-than-normal levels of chloride in your blood, it may indicate that you have:

  • Dehydration.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Metabolic acidosis (having too much acid in your blood, or a lower-than-normal blood pH).
  • Respiratory alkalosis (having a low level of carbon dioxide in your blood due to breathing excessively, or hyperventilating).

It’s important to remember that a high chloride result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical condition. Certain situations and medications can also increase your chloride levels.

Should I be concerned if I have a low or high chloride blood test result?

If your chloride blood test results reveal that you have high or low levels of chloride, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a medical condition. Many factors can affect your chloride levels, including:

  • Drinking excess fluids.
  • Losing fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Certain medicines, such as antacids.
  • An error in the blood test collection, transportation or processing.

Your healthcare provider will interpret your chloride result within the context of certain factors, such as other test results and your medical history. If you have questions about your results, be sure to ask your healthcare provider for more information.

When should I know the results of my chloride blood test?

In most cases, you should have your chloride blood test results within one or two days, though it could take longer.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Receiving an abnormal test result can be stressful. Know that having a high or low level of chloride in your blood doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition and need treatment, though. Many other factors can affect your chloride levels. Approximately 1 in 20 healthy individuals will have a result outside the normal range. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need further tests to determine the cause of the abnormal level. Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider questions. They’re there to help you.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/04/2021.

References

  • Lab Tests Online. Chloride. (https://labtestsonline.org/tests/chloride) Accessed 11/04/2021.
  • MedlinePlus. Chloride Blood Test. (https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/chloride-blood-test/) Accessed 11/04/2021.
  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Overview of Electrolytes. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/overview-of-electrolytes) Accessed 11/04/2021.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy