Pathology Handbook


Clinical Indications

Zinc may be lost following operations or severe infection and upon recovery, acute zinc deficiency may be precipitated.

Inadequate supplementation of zinc in patients on TPN may occur and zinc levels should therefore be assessed in these patients.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include characteristic rash, abdominal pain and diarrhoea with depression and lethargy.

Zinc deficiency may occur in premature infants prior to weaning and in a rare inherited disorder of zinc absorption (acrodermatitis enteropathica). 

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Analysed by referral laboratory if specific criteria met.

Specific Criteria

Assessment of zinc status in patients on TPN
Investigation of zinc deficiency in symptomatic patients

Turnaround Time

1 week


Serum in yellow-top SST tube

Red top tubes can also be used


2 ml


Vacutainer gold top


Sample should be transported to laboratory as soon as possible.

Lab Handling

Samples should be separated promptly (within 4 hours).

Causes for Rejection


Unlabelled or inadequately labelled sample.

Delay in sample reaching laboratory.

Reference Range

Normal levels 11 - 24 µmol/L.

There is diurnal variation with peak levels at 10.00 am. Zinc levels fall during acute phase response, but levels below 8 µmol/L usually indicate deficiency even in presence of acute phase response.