Stability of Whole Blood Electrolyte Specimens at Room Temperature vs. Slushed Ice Conditions

Gerald S. Zavorsky, Xander M.R. van Wijk, Samuel Gasparyan, Nicholas S. Stollenwerk, Rebecca A. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Data on the stability of whole blood electrolytes is limited to small sample sizes. We sought to determine the stability of whole blood electrolytes under room temperature and slushed iced conditions in human patients at a major hospital center. METHODS: Whole blood samples were obtained from 203 patients hospitalized for various pathophysiological conditions. Electrolyte concentrations of sodium, potassium [K+], ionized calcium, and chloride were measured at 5 different timepoints spanning 3 h. Samples were stored at room temperature (22-24 °C) or under slushed ice conditions (0.1-0.2 °C) before analysis. RESULTS: Under both conditions, sodium, ionized calcium, and chloride did not show a measurable change up to 109 min compared to baseline; however, the mean increase in [K+] over 138 min of storage in slushed ice was 0.0032 (0.0021 [5th percentile] to 0.0047 [95th percentile]) mmol/L/min (adjusted R2 = 0.62, P < 0.001). Five percent of the specimens demonstrated a ≥0.3 mmol/L change in [K+] from baseline after 67 min of storage in slushed ice. In contrast, 1% of the specimens stored at room temperature showed the same change at the same timepoint. CONCLUSIONS: Whole blood sodium, [K+], ionized calcium, and chloride concentrations remain stable for at least 109 min at room temperature. However, whole blood specimens stored in slushed ice for not more than 67 min exhibit a 5% probability that the [K+] concentration will increase by at least 0.3 mmol/L compared to baseline. The other analytes do not destabilize for up to 178 min of slushed ice storage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalThe journal of applied laboratory medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2 2022


  • arterial
  • critically ill
  • kinetics
  • measurable change
  • time course
  • venous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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