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Am J Psychiatry. 1978 Sep;135(9):1065-9.

Erythrocyte concentrations of the lithium ion: clinical correlates and mechanisms of action.


When lithium carbonate is administered to individuals, there is considerable intersubject variation in the extent of accumulation of Li+ by erythrocytes. The primary reason for this is differences in the activity of a Li+-Na+ counterflow system, which, under clinical conditions, removes Li+ from the cell. It appears that some bipolar patients accumulate more Li+ in their red cells than either unipolar depressives or normal controls. The precise clinical characteristics of the bipolar patients who accumulate relatively large amounts of erythrocyte Li+ need to be clarified in future research. Finally, the measurement of red cell concentrations of Li+, in addition to the usual plasma measurement, can be used as an indicator of patient compliance.

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