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U&E is a group of tests that may be performed together to evaluate kidney function and electrolyte balance. The tests measure levels of various substances, including several electrolytes and waste products in the blood to determine the current health of your kidneys.

About

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located at the bottom of the ribcage to the right and left of the spine. They are part of the urinary tract and perform a few essential roles and functions within the body.
  • Within the kidneys are about a million tiny blood filtering units called nephrons. In each nephron, blood is continually filtered through a cluster of looping blood vessels, called a glomerulus, which allows the passage of water and small molecules but retains blood cells, proteins such as albumin, and larger molecules.
  • Attached to each glomerulus are tubes (tubules) that have a number of sections that collect the fluid and molecules that pass through the glomerulus, reabsorb what can be re-used by the body, add other molecules through a process called secretion and, finally, adjust the amount of water that is eventually eliminated along with the waste as urine.
  • Besides eliminating wastes and helping to regulate the amount of water in the body, these activities allow the kidneys to maintain normal chemical balance in the body. Among the important substances, the kidneys help to regulate are sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. The right balance of these substances is critical. When the kidneys are not working properly, the concentrations of these substances in the blood may be abnormal and waste products and fluid may build up to dangerous levels in the blood, creating a life-threatening situation.
  • Kidneys also have a number of other miscellaneous roles in maintaining a healthy body, including the production of a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production (called erythropoietin), production of a hormone that helps maintain a normal blood pressure (called renin), and turning one form of vitamin D into a more active form, which enhances calcium absorption.
If the kidneys are not functioning properly, waste products can accumulate in the blood and fluid levels can increase to dangerous volumes, causing damage to the body or a potentially life-threatening situation. Numerous conditions and diseases can result in damage to the kidneys. The most common causes of and main risk factors for kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension. For more on the types and causes, see the article on Kidney Disease.

Preparation

You may be instructed to fast for 8-12 hours (no food, only water) prior to the test.

Indications

A healthcare practitioner may order U&E when someone has risk factors for kidney dysfunction such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, elevated cholesterol, or a family history of kidney disease.


A healthcare practitioner may order U&E when someone has signs and symptoms of kidney disease, though early kidney disease often does not cause any noticeable symptoms. It may be initially detected through routine blood or urine testing. Examples of some signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling or puffiness, especially around the eyes or in the face, wrists, stomach, thighs or ankles
  • Urine that is foamy, bloody, or coffee-coloured
  • A decrease in the amount of urine
  • Problems urinating, such as a burning feeling or abnormal discharge during urination, or a change in the frequency of urination, especially at night
  • Mid-back pain, below the ribs, near where the kidneys are located
U&E may also be ordered at regular intervals when someone is being treated for kidney disease for monitoring purposes.

Interpretation

U&E test results are not diagnostic but rather indicate that there may be a problem with the kidneys and that further testing is required to make a diagnosis and determine the cause. Results of the panel are usually considered together, rather than separately. The individual test result can be abnormal due to causes other than kidney disease, but taken together with risks and/or signs and symptoms, they may give an indication of whether kidney disease is present.


See the pages on the individual tests for more detailed information about each one.

Disclaimer

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. Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of 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.

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