Ammonia in the blood above a certain quantity is a condition called hyperammonemia. This is a potentially dangerous condition and is a result of the liver not functioning properly or because of a crucial enzyme deficiency. The test is done via a blood sample. Usually, an ammonia blood level test hepatic encephalopathy can indicate hepatic encephalopathy or liver cirrhosis. The reason for this is that ammonia is a toxic substance to the human body and because of this reason it is usually converted to urea in the liver for safe excretion. This is also a reason to perform an ammonia blood level test to check the urea cycle efficiency. The urea cycle is a chemical process that goes on in the liver where ammonia is converted into urea with addition of high energy ATP molecules. Ammonia is created in the body from the action of mitochondria in every cell in our body.
The blood ammonia test is done to primarily judge liver function. It is widely understood that any kind of deficient liver function, as in the case of cirrhosis, hepatitis, and Reye's syndrome, will affect the metabolism of ammonia to urea. The test is also done when the symptoms of any of these problems is seen to check for the presence of the disease. In addition, the test is usually also done to judge the progress of treatment in a patient suffering from these diseases.
Though the test itself is a rather simple one for you to undergo, with just a pin prick and some blood being collected, you have to prepare for this test. Assuming that you have had a 'brown-bag' session with your doctor, during which, you discuss all the drugs that you are taking, you must additionally stay away from smoking, some types of medication, cough medication, and alcohol intake, for 8 hours before the test. You might also be order to fast for a few hours or more before the test.
The test is a simple blood test. When you are looking at the results, if the results state your ammonia levels are 15 to 45 mcg/dL or 11 to 32 mcmol/L, you are indeed in the safe zone. Should you ever have the test done and your values exceed those detailed out here, then you should consider talking to your doctor about diseases like cirrhosis, hepatitis, heart disease, kidney failure, or a intestinal problem.