What Do Low Ammonia Levels in Blood Mean?

Low levels of ammonia in a person’s blood can be an indication that the kidneys are not properly removing waste. Specific laboratories have their own range for what ideal ammonia levels in the blood should be, but in a healthy adult, the common ammonia range is around 10 to 80 micrograms per deciliter, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

High levels of ammonia in the blood can often be an indication of either liver disease, kidney disease, intestinal or stomach bleeding or Reye syndrome. Certain medication can impact the results of the ammonia test, including diuretics, tetracycline, lactulose, polyamine B and methicillin. Other factors may also have an influence on the test results, such as smoking, heavy exercising right before the test, high or low-protein diets and using any medications meant to decrease ammonia levels.

With high amounts of ammonia in the blood, the liver may not work properly, leading to symptoms such as confusion, tiredness, coma or death. Symptoms of an ammonia buildup in children include breathing difficulties, seizures and sometimes death.

The ammonia blood test is administered by obtaining a blood sample with a needle inserted into a vein in the arm. In most situations, the results from the tests are readily available within 12 hours. A patient’s primary care physician needs to be made aware of the medications the patient uses before the test is administered.