Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 7—Understanding Kidney Lab Tests

The story is told of a woman whose husband became ill. During their 25 years of marriage, he handled all of their finances. Since she didn't like working with numbers, she gladly let him manage their money.

But while her husband was recovering, dealing with the finances fell in her lap. She quickly had to learn about the bills and how to budget to pay them. She got help to make sense of it all, but in her words, those first few months were like "getting a drink from a fire hydrant." Too much, too fast!

We tell you this story because some of you may feel like that woman as you step into this module.

If you've ever looked at the results of your lab tests, they can quickly make your eyes glaze over if you don't know how to read them. At first glance, most people see a list of words they don't understand, with numbers that make no sense.

Because it looks so complex, most people simply ask their nurse, doctor, or dietitian to tell them if everything is okay. Of course, that's one option you have: let your health care team read your lab results and just tell you the outcome. But we think there is a better way, one that empowers you more.

You see, it's your body. And lab tests tell you what's happening inside your body. By learning what each test measures and your target range, you can follow your health progress from one test to the next.

As you follow your progress, it becomes easier for you to care for your body by making needed changes. The more you take care of yourself, the better you will feel. And the better you feel, the more hopeful you will be about living with kidney disease.

Like the woman in our story who needed to manage her finances, you need to learn:

  • Which tests you have regularly
  • What each test measures
  • Why these are important to you
  • What happens to you when the results are out of range

This information is a tool to help you manage your overall health. Just as the woman in the story got help to make sense of her finances, we will help you through it—one step at a time.

Take the Kidney Quiz!

You'll have a better sense of how much you're learning if you take our quick kidney quiz before you start. It's just 9 questions. How about it?

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Have you ever tried to read your lab results?


Lab Tests We'll Cover

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Hemoglobin (Hgb or Hb)
  • Hematocrit (Hct)
  • Ferritin
  • Transferrin Saturation (TSAT)
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
  • Creatinine
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)
  • Urea Reduction Ratio (URR)
  • Kt/V
  • Parathyroid Hormone (PTH)
  • Calcium-Phosphorus Product (Ca x P)
  • Urine Blood or Urine Hemoglobin (Heme)
  • Creatinine Clearance
  • Urine Albumin
  • Microalbuminuria
  • Albumin-to-creatinine ratio
  • Serum Albumin
  • Total Cholesterol
  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Triglycerides
  • Fasting Blood Glucose (FBG)
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)

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