Ion-selective electrodes (ISEs) respond to ion-activity and therefore do not sense substance concentration directly. However, it is recognized that sodium and potassium in plasma will continue to be expressed for clinical purposes in terms of substance concentration (mmol/l). A convention is proposed whereby for routine clinical purposes results of ISE measurements of sodium and potassium in undiluted plasma should be reported in terms of substance concentration (mmol/l). In specimens with normal concentrations of plasma water, total CO2, lipids, protein and pH, the values will concur with the total substance concentration as determined for example by flame atomic emission spectrometry (FAES) or ISE measurements on diluted samples. In specimens with abnormal concentrations of plasma water, the results will differ. However, under these circumstances, measurements of sodium and potassium by ISE in the undiluted sample will more appropriately reflect the activity of sodium and potassium and are therefore clinically more relevant than the determination in diluted samples. Detailed recommendations are made about practical procedures to achieve this. The recommended name for this quantity is the substance concentration of ionized sodium or ionized potassium in plasma, as opposed to total sodium or total potassium determined by, e.g. FAES, or ISE measurements on diluted samples.
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