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Investigation and monitoring of heavy metal poisoning


Historically, heavy metal measurement and interpretation has been a highly specialised area performed only in a handful of centres within the UK. However, recent years have seen a move to more local testing due to the repatriation of referred work into pathology networks and the increased availability of inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry technology. While management of significant poisoning is still overseen by tertiary care poisoning specialists, management of milder cases may be undertaken locally.

Non-specialist clinical scientists and clinicians need to know when heavy metal testing is appropriate, which samples are required (and any specific requirements around collection) and how to interpret and act on the results.

This Best Practice article provides guidance on the investigation and monitoring of the toxic elements most frequently encountered in general medical practice; lead, mercury and arsenic. It is intended as a reference guide for the non-specialist and as a comprehensive summary for clinical toxicologists and clinical scientists.

  • chemistry, clinical
  • toxicology
  • biochemistry

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