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April 1979

The Erythrocyte Lithium-Plasma Lithium Ratio in Patients With Primary Affective Disorder

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry, Veterans Administration Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1979;36(4):457-461. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1979.01780040099011

• Increasing attention has been given to the significance of intra-cellular concentrations of the lithium ion in patients treated with this drug. The erythrocyte has been the most common cell investigated because of its accessibility and certain similarities between the ion transport mechanisms of this cell and the neuron. Intraerythrocyte lithium is expressed as the ratio of lithium in the cell to the plasma lithium concentration (lithium ratio). The lithium ratio has been reported to be related to a number of clinical variables, including treatment response, clinical state, side-effects, toxicity, diagnosis, and electrophysiological effects. We have investigated the lithium ratio in a large series of patients with a primary affective disorder and in a smaller control group. We found a significantly higher mean lithium ratio in the bipolar diagnostic group than in the unipolar and control groups. There was a trend, not statistically significant, in the unipolar and bipolar groups for females to have higher lithium ratios than males. While not diagnostic, the lithium ratio appears to be another biological variable where bipolar patients, as a group, differ from normals and others with an affective disorder.

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