What is the role of ketone levels in the diagnosis of metabolic acidosis?

Updated: Aug 20, 2020
  • Author: Antonia Quinn, DO; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
  • Print

Elevations of ketones indicate diabetic, alcoholic, and starvation ketoacidosis.

The nitroprusside test is used to detect the presence of ketoacids in the blood and the urine. This test only measures acetoacetate and acetone; therefore, it may underestimate the degree of ketonemia and ketonuria because it will not detect the presence of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BOH). This limitation of the test can be especially problematic in patients with ketoacidosis who cannot convert BOH to acetoacetate because of severe shock or liver failure.

An assay for BOH is unavailable in some hospitals. An indirect method to circumvent this problem is to add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to a urine specimen. This enzymatically will convert BOH into acetoacetate, which will be detected by the nitroprusside test.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!