Spurious Hyperchloremia in the Presence of Elevated Plasma Salicylate: A Cohort Study

Kianoush B. Kashani, Jon H. Steuernagle, Qi Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Acute metabolic acidosis is rarely associated with a reduced or negative anion gap (AG), but several case reports have described such an abnormality occurring in the setting of acute salicylate intoxication. The underlying cause of this phenomenon is unclear. Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, we reviewed our institutional database to identify all patients admitted for salicylate intoxication at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN, USA) from January 2010 through December 2012. Serum chloride was measured with the Cobas INTEGRA 400 plus electrode (expedited laboratory test) or Cobas 6000 (routine laboratory test). We compared blood chloride levels measured by the 2 devices in the presence of positive blood salicylate level. Results: Twelve adult patients with salicylate levels >20 mg/dL had markedly elevated chloride concentrations. The median (interquartile range) chloride level at admission was 120 (107-145) mmol/L on their initial laboratory studies, resulting in reduced or even negative AGs. None of the patients had bromide toxicity, nor did they have any other identifiable cause of hyperchloremia or decreased AG. Further testing of the same blood samples with an alternative measurement system (Roche Cobas 6000) yielded normal chloride values, indicating that falsely elevated chloride values with the initial testing led to the diminished or negative AG values. Conclusion: Circulating levels of salicylate can interfere with chloride measured by using routine techniques, resulting in spurious hyperchloremia outcomes and erroneous AG values. In patients with acute metabolic acidosis and abnormally reduced or negative AG, salicylate interference with chloride measurement should be suspected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-191
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Hyperchloremia
  • Salicylate toxicity
  • Spurious

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nephrology
  • Urology
  • Physiology (medical)


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