Lactic Acid, Plasma

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: L-Lactate, Lactate, Lactic Acid Plasma

Lactic Acid, Plasma

*Important Information on Lab Test Processing Times: Ulta Lab Tests is committed to informing you about the processing times for your lab tests processed through Quest Diagnostics. Please note that the estimated processing time for each test, indicated in business days, is based on data from the past 30 days across the 13 Quest Diagnostics laboratories for each test. These estimates are intended to serve as a guide and are not guarantees. Factors such as laboratory workload, weather conditions, holidays, and the need for additional testing or maintenance can influence actual processing times. We aim to offer estimates to help you plan accordingly. Please understand that these times may vary, and processing times are not guaranteed. Thank you for choosing Ulta Lab Tests for your laboratory needs.

The Lactic Acid, Plasma test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Brief Description: The Lactic Acid Plasma test, commonly referred to simply as a lactate test, measures the level of lactic acid in the blood. Lactic acid is a byproduct of cellular metabolism, specifically when the body breaks down glucose for energy in the absence of adequate oxygen, a process known as anaerobic metabolism. Under normal conditions, lactic acid is rapidly cleared from the blood. Elevated levels can indicate that tissues are not receiving enough oxygen or there is an impairment in the body's ability to clear lactate.

Also Known As: Lactate Test, L-Lactate Test, Lactate Plasma Test, Lactate Blood Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Plasma

Test Preparation: Sample should be collected without the use of a tourniquet, avoid hand-clenching. If a tourniquet has been used, it should be released for one minute prior to drawing blood. Collected blood should be cooled on ice immediately and separated from the cells within 3 hours.

When is a Lactic Acid test ordered?

When someone exhibits indicators and symptoms of insufficient oxygen, such as:

  • breathing difficulty
  • quickly breathing
  • Paleness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • muscle tremor
  • Continent pain
  • Coma

When a patient exhibits signs and symptoms that a medical professional believes are indicative of sepsis, shock, a heart attack, severe congestive heart failure, renal failure, or uncontrolled diabetes, the test may be prescribed.

Initial orders for the lactate test may include other tests to assess a patient’s status. If lactate is noticeably raised, it might be prescribed periodically to keep an eye on the situation.

When a person exhibits meningitis symptoms such severe headaches, fever, confusion, and loss of consciousness, CSF and blood lactate levels may be ordered.

What does a Lactic Acid Plasma test check for?

One of the chemicals created by cells as the body converts food into energy is lactate. It can occasionally be found in the form of lactic acid depending on pH. The majority of it will, however, be present in the blood as lactate because of the neutral pH that the body maintains. This examination determines how much lactate is present in the blood or, less frequently, the cerebrospinal fluid.

Blood and CSF lactate concentrations are typically low. When there is insufficient oxygen at the cellular level or when the body’s cells’ principal method of generating energy is interfered with, lactate is created excessively by muscle cells, red blood cells, brain cells, and other organs. Lactic acidosis can result from too much lactate.

The mitochondria, which are microscopic power plants found inside the majority of body cells, are where the majority of energy production in cells takes place. The mitochondria convert glucose and oxygen into ATP, the body’s main energy source. Aerobic energy production is what this is.

The body must switch to less effective energy production in order to digest glucose and make ATP when cellular oxygen levels drop if the mitochondria are not operating properly. Lactic acid, which is mostly produced as a byproduct and is digested by the liver, is what is known as anaerobic energy production.

When lactic acid is produced more quickly than the liver can eliminate it, it can build up in the body and blood.

Excess lactate could be a sign of one or more of the following:

  • absence of oxygen
  • a syndrome that results in excessive lactate production being present
  • the existence of a disease that impairs the body’s ability to remove lactate

A person is considered to have hyperlactatemia when their lactic acid production considerably rises. As more lactic acid builds up, hyperlactatemia can proceed to lactic acidosis. Although the effects of hyperlactatemia are frequently compensated for by the body, lactic acidosis can be severe enough to upset the acid/base balance of an individual and result in symptoms including muscle weakness, fast breathing, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and even coma.

High lactate levels might result from a variety of illnesses.

Lab tests often ordered with a Lactic Acid test:

When a Lactic Acid test is ordered, it's typically part of a broader evaluation of metabolic status and oxygen delivery to tissues. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:


  1. Complete Blood Count (CBC):

    • Purpose: To evaluate overall blood health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To check for signs of infection or anemia, which can contribute to tissue hypoxia and lactic acidosis.
  2. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP):

    • Purpose: To assess kidney function, electrolyte balance, and glucose level.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate for conditions that may contribute to lactic acidosis, such as renal failure or severe diabetes.
  3. Blood Cultures:

    • Purpose: To detect the presence of bacteria in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To rule out sepsis, a common cause of lactic acidosis due to poor oxygen delivery and increased lactate production.
  4. Creatine Kinase (CK):

    • Purpose: To measure the level of creatine kinase, an enzyme found in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess for muscle breakdown, which can be a source of lactate production.
  5. Liver Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess liver health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate liver function, as the liver is crucial for lactate clearance.
  6. Urine Ketones:

    • Purpose: To detect the presence of ketones, which are produced when the body breaks down fat for energy.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess for ketoacidosis, a condition that can accompany lactic acidosis, especially in diabetic patients.

These tests, when ordered alongside a Lactic Acid test, provide a comprehensive evaluation of the potential causes and consequences of lactic acidosis. They are crucial for diagnosing the underlying condition causing the lactic acid build-up, assessing its severity, monitoring its progression, and guiding appropriate treatment. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s symptoms, clinical presentation, and medical history.

Conditions where a Lactic Acid test is recommended:

A Lactic Acid Plasma test can be crucial in diagnosing or monitoring several conditions:

  • Lactic acidosis: A condition where there's a buildup of lactic acid in the body more than it can be cleared.
  • Sepsis: A severe response to infection that can impair blood flow to organs.
  • Shock: Whether due to trauma, infection, or other causes, shock can reduce oxygen delivery to tissues.
  • Certain types of leukemia or lymphoma: Some malignancies can lead to increased production of lactic acid.
  • Mitochondrial disorders: These can impair the body's ability to produce energy aerobically.
  • Medications: Some medications, like metformin, can increase lactic acid levels.

How does my health care provider use a Lactic Acid test?

The main purpose of the lactate test is to identify the presence of lactic acidosis, which is characterized by elevated lactate levels that disturb the body's acid-base balance.

It can occasionally be found in the form of lactic acid depending on pH. The majority of lactic acid will, however, remain present in the blood as lactate because of the body's ability to maintain a neutral pH.

The lack of sufficient oxygen in cells and tissues is the most frequent cause of lactic acidosis. This test can be performed to help identify and assess the severity of hypoxia and lactic acidosis in people who have a condition that may result in a reduction in the amount of oxygen given to cells and tissues, such as shock or congestive heart failure. In order to assess a person's acid/base balance and oxygenation, it may be ordered along with blood gases.

This test may be performed to assess a person who has an illness that can increase lactate levels and who exhibits acidosis-related symptoms because lactic acidosis can also result from disorders unrelated to oxygen levels. To identify whether an underlying ailment, such as liver or renal disease, is the cause of lactic acidosis, it may be requested in conjunction with groups of tests, such as the comprehensive metabolic panel, basic metabolic panel, or complete blood count.

One who is suspected of having sepsis may also have an initial evaluation using the lactate test. If a person's lactate level is higher than normal, treatment will usually start right away. Sepsis patients have a much better chance of recovering if they are identified and treated right away.

When someone is being treated for a chronic condition like severe congestive heart failure or an acute condition like sepsis, shock, or heart attack, lactate levels may be requested periodically to help monitor hypoxia and response to treatment.

To help differentiate between bacterial and viral meningitis, a cerebrospinal fluid lactate test in addition to a blood lactate test may be prescribed.

What do my Lactic Acid test results mean?

A high blood lactate level indicates that a person has an illness or condition that makes lactate build up. In general, a higher rise in lactate indicates a more serious ailment. An increase in lactate can be a sign that organs are not working properly when it occurs in conjunction with low oxygen levels.

Yet having too much lactate is not a diagnostic sign. While diagnosing an underlying ailment or disease, a health professional must take into account a patient's medical history, physical exam, and the outcomes of additional diagnostic testing.

Elevated lactate levels can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Depending on how they generate lactic acidosis, they are divided into two classes.

The most prevalent type of lactic acidosis, type A, may develop from illnesses that make it difficult for a person to breathe in enough oxygen or that limit blood flow, which reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissues. Type A conditions include, for example:

  • trauma-related shock or severe blood loss
  • Sepsis
  • chest pain
  • enlarged heart disease
  • lung illness or respiratory failure that is severe
  • buildup of fluid in the lungs
  • extremely low red blood cell and/or hemoglobin levels

Type B lactic acidosis, which is caused by an excessive demand for oxygen or metabolic issues, is unrelated to oxygen delivery. Examples of causes of category B include:

  • liver illness
  • kidney illness
  • inadequate management of diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • AIDS
  • uncommon illnesses that cause glycogen storage
  • use of specific medications, including metformin and salicylates
  • exposure to poisons like methanol and cyanide

Many uncommon inherited metabolic and mitochondrial disorders, include forms of muscular dystrophy that impair healthy ATP generation

exercising vigorously, such as marathon runners

Lactate concentrations that gradually decline over time indicate a positive response to treatment when someone is receiving care for lactic acidosis or hypoxia.

Cerebrospinal fluid lactate concentrations that are much higher than normal or slightly elevated are more likely to be caused by viral meningitis in people who have the signs and symptoms of meningitis.

The lactate test gauges how much lactate is present in the blood at any given moment. The absence of lactic acidosis, the presence of adequate cellular oxygen, and/or the absence of lactic acidosis-related signs and symptoms are all indicated by a normal lactate level.

Most Common Questions About the Lactic Acid Plasma test:

Purpose and Indications for the Lactic Acid Plasma Test

Why is the Lactic Acid Plasma test performed?

The Lactic Acid Plasma test is used to determine the concentration of lactate (lactic acid) in the blood. Elevated levels may indicate a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) or conditions where the body's cells are not using oxygen for energy efficiently. This test is often used when someone has symptoms of metabolic acidosis or when a healthcare provider suspects inadequate oxygenation.

Is the Lactic Acid Plasma test useful in determining the cause of acidosis?

Yes, a high lactic acid concentration in the blood indicates lactic acidosis, which can be due to several underlying causes, including severe infections, shock, hypoxia, certain drugs, and rare metabolic conditions. The test results can assist healthcare professionals in diagnosing the cause and determining appropriate treatment.

Interpreting the Results

Can a normal Lactic Acid Plasma test result exclude lactic acidosis?

While a normal result reduces the likelihood of lactic acidosis, clinical judgment should always be used. There might be transient increases in lactic acid that were not captured during the test, or other metabolic acidosis conditions might be at play.

Follow-up and Treatment

After getting the results of the Lactic Acid Plasma test, what should be the next steps?

If elevated levels of lactic acid are detected, healthcare providers will typically investigate the potential underlying causes. This might involve other diagnostic tests, imaging, or clinical evaluations. Treatment will focus on addressing the underlying cause of the lactic acid increase.

How do the results of the Lactic Acid Plasma test influence treatment options?

The treatment for elevated lactic acid depends on the cause. For example, if hypoxia is the underlying issue, oxygen therapy might be administered. If a specific drug is causing the elevation, it might be discontinued or replaced. It's crucial to identify and treat the root cause to effectively manage and reverse lactic acidosis.

Disease Monitoring and Complications

Should the Lactic Acid Plasma test be repeated periodically?

In acute situations, the Lactic Acid Plasma test might be repeated multiple times to monitor the effectiveness of interventions and ensure that lactic acid levels are decreasing. For chronic conditions or diseases where lactic acidosis is a concern, periodic monitoring might be recommended.

Can the Lactic Acid Plasma test predict complications or disease progression?

Persistently high levels of lactic acid in the blood, especially if not decreasing with treatment, can be an indicator of poor prognosis or potential complications. High levels can affect the heart and decrease blood pressure, leading to organ failure if not addressed.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

Customer Reviews