Currently, the main use for LDH is as a general indicator of the existence and severity of acute or chronictissue damage and, sometimes, as a monitor of progressive conditions. LDH isoenzymes may also be used to help determine which organs are likely to be involved.
The overall use of LDH and LDH isoenzymes has decreased. Traditionally, they were most frequently used, with other tests such as CK and CK-MB, to help diagnose and monitor myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). This use of LDH, however, has been almost entirely replaced by troponin measurements in recent years because troponin is better and more specific and sensitive to heart tissue injury than LDH.
A total LDH level may be used with other tests, as a screening test when your doctor suspects some kind of cellular or tissue damage. If the total LDH is elevated, then the doctor may request LDH isoenzymes, or more commonly other tests such as ALT, AST or ALPto help diagnose the condition and to help determine which organs are involved. Once the acute or chronicproblem is diagnosed, total LDH levels may be used at regular intervals to monitor its progress and/or resolution.
LDH levels may also occasionally be used to monitor damage caused by muscle trauma or injury and to help identify haemolytic anaemia (anaemia caused by the breakdown of red blood cells – either because they are unusually fragile or because something is mechanically damaging them,such as an artificial heart valve).
LDH and LDH isoenzymes may still be occasionally requested along with CK and CK-MB when a patient has symptoms of a heart attack, but this is increasingly rare. In most cases today, the doctor will use troponin levels along with CK and CK-MB instead of LDH.
Elevated levels of LDH and changes in the ratio of the LDH isoenzymes usually indicate some type of tissue damage. Usually LDH levels will rise as the cellular destruction begins, peak after some time period, and then begin to fall. For instance, when someone has a heart attack, blood levels of total LDH will rise within 24 to 48 hours, peak in 2 to 3 days, and return to normal in 10 to 14 days. LDH levels are elevated in many other conditions reflecting its widespread tissue distribution.
Many things can affect LDH results that are not necessarily a cause for concern. For example:
Strenuous exercise can cause temporary elevations in LDH.
Haemolysis of the blood specimen can cause false positives (“Hemolysis of blood” refers to breakage of red blood cells in the blood sample which may happen if the specimen is handled roughly, stored in extreme temperatures or if the specimen was difficult to collect.
If your platelet count is increased, serum LDH will be artificially high and not reflective of the LDH actually present.
This article was last reviewed on 9 March 2011. | This article was last modified on 14 October 2011.
The review date indicates when the article was last reviewed from beginning to end to ensure that it reflects the most current science. A review may not require any modifications to the article, so the two dates may not always agree.
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