A candidate reference method for serum potassium measurement by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

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Potassium is an important serum ion that is frequently assayed in clinical laboratories. Quality assurance requires reference methods; thus, the establishment of a candidate reference method for serum potassium measurements is important.


An inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) method was developed. Serum samples were gravimetrically spiked with an aluminum internal standard, digested with 69% ultrapure nitric acid, and diluted to the required concentration. The 39K/27Al ratios were measured by ICP-MS in hydrogen mode. The method was calibrated using 5% nitric acid matrix calibrators, and the calibration function was established using the bracketing method.


The correlation coefficients between the measured 39K/27Al ratios and the analyte concentration ratios were >0.9999. The coefficients of variation were 0.40%, 0.68%, and 0.22% for the three serum samples, and the analytical recovery was 99.8%. The accuracy of the measurement was also verified by measuring certified reference materials, SRM909b and SRM956b. Comparison with the ion selective electrode routine method and international inter-laboratory comparisons gave satisfied results.


The new ICP-MS method is specific, precise, simple, and low-cost, and it may be used as a candidate reference method for standardizing serum potassium measurements.

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