Calcium measurements in serum and plasma--total and ionized

CRC Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 1979 Dec;11(3):271-304. doi: 10.3109/10408367909105859.


This article will review the methods currently employed for measuring the concentrations of total and ionized calcium in serum or plasma. As far as total calcium is concerned, various techniques such as atomic absorption spectrometry, spectrophotometry, fluorometry, complexometric titration, and flame photometry will be described and compared. Particular emphasis will be given to the accuracy and precision of each technique. Possible sources of error and interfering agents will be identified and the various procedures for the taking and handling of blood samples evaluated. Inter-laboratory variation in the measurement of calcium will be studied. An assessment will be made of a new reference method for measuring total calcium in serum using isotope-dilution mass spectrometry. The usefulness of the total calcium measurement in clinical medicine will be briefly discussed. Within the last decade the refinement of spectrophotometric techniques and the improvements in ion-selective electrode technology have revolutionized the measurement of ionized calcium in serum, such that it may now be possible to replace total calcium measurements with ionized calcium measurements on a routine basis. The various techniques currently in use for measuring ionized calcium will be described and evaluated. Particular attention will be paid to the preparation of standards, the procedures for taking blood samples, and the handling of the samples prior to and during measurement. An assessment of the relative value of measuring total and ionized calcium will be presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / blood*
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Chemical Precipitation
  • Colorimetry / methods
  • Edetic Acid
  • Electrodes
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Methods
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reference Standards
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic / methods


  • Cations, Divalent
  • Edetic Acid
  • Calcium