RUA - Clinical: Urinalysis, Complete, Includes Microscopic

Test Catalog

Test Name

Test ID: RUA    
Urinalysis, Complete, Includes Microscopic

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Screening for urinary tract diseases and some nonrenal diseases

Testing Algorithm Delineates situations when tests are added to the initial order. This includes reflex and additional tests.

When this test is ordered, either automated or manual microscopic examination will always be performed at no additional charge.

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

The kidney plays a key role in the excretion of by-products of cellular metabolism and regulation of water, acid-base, and electrolyte balance. Urine is produced by filtration of plasma in the renal glomeruli, followed by tubular secretion and reabsorption of water and other compounds.


Abnormalities detected by urinalysis may reflect either urinary tract diseases (eg, infection, glomerulonephritis, loss of concentrating capacity) or extrarenal disease processes (eg, glucosuria in diabetes, proteinuria in monoclonal gammopathies, bilirubinuria in liver disease).

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

Descriptive report

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results


RBCs, WBCs, renal tubular epithelial (RTE) cells, transitional epithelial cells, squamous epithelial cells, casts, sperm, free fat, oval fat bodies, bacteria, and pathologic crystals are reported. RBC casts are almost always indicative of glomerulonephritis. White cell casts are typically an indication of acute interstitial nephritis or pyelonephritis, but can also be seen in glomerulonephritides because there is often a component of accompanying interstitial nephritis. Fatty casts and free fat are often seen in patients with nephrotic syndrome or other glomerular diseases associated with significant proteinuria. Granular casts are observed in a number of disorders and are thought to be formed from partially degraded cellular casts, or are protein-derived casts. Hyaline casts are not thought to be indicative of any disease process, but increased numbers may be seen in concentrated urine specimens. Waxy casts and broad casts are most often observed in advanced renal failure. Increased numbers of RTE cells are indicators of renal tubular injury. Increased numbers of RTE may be caused by drugs with renal tubular toxicity (eg, cyclosporine A, aminoglycosides, cisplatin, radio-contrast media, acetaminophen overdose), interstitial nephritis, hypotension (surgical, sepsis, obstetric complications), or heme pigments from hemoglobinuria or myoglobinuria from rhabdomyolysis (eg, alcoholism, heat stroke, seizures, sickle cell trait). Newborns often shed RTE cells in their urine. The presence of squamous cells suggests that the specimen may not have been an optimal clean-catch specimen and could be contaminated with skin flora.


Recommendations by an American Urological Association panel, based upon careful review of all available published outcome studies that contained results of detailed hematuria workups within actual patient populations, are that patients with more than 3 RBCs per high-power field in 2 out of 3 properly collected urine specimens should be considered to have microhematuria and, hence, evaluated for possible pathologic causes. However, the panel also noted that there is no absolute lower limit for hematuria, and risk factors for significant disease should be taken into consideration before deciding to defer an evaluation in patients with only 1 or 2 RBCs per high-power field. High-risk patients, especially those with a history of smoking or chemical exposure, should still be considered for a full urologic evaluation even after a properly performed urinalysis documented the presence of at least 3 RBCs per high-power field. In certain patients, even 1 or 2 RBCs per high-powered field might merit evaluation.(1)



Osmolality is an index of the solute concentration of osmotically active particles, principally sodium, chloride, potassium, and urea; glucose can contribute significantly to the osmolality when present in substantial amounts. The ability of the kidney to maintain both tonicity and water balance of the extracellular fluid can be evaluated by measuring the osmolality of the urine. More information concerning the state of renal water handling or abnormalities of urine dilution or concentration can be obtained if urinary osmolality is compared to serum osmolality. Normally, the ratio of urine osmolality to serum osmolality is 1.0 to 3.0, reflecting a wide range of urine osmolality.


In a random urine specimen, a protein/creatinine or protein/osmolality ratio can be used to roughly approximate 24-hour excretion rates. The normal protein-to-creatinine ratio for adult males is less than 0.11 mg/mg creatinine and for adult females is less than 0.16 mg/mg creatinine. The normal protein-to-osmolality ratio for adults is less than 0.42.(1) For patients under 18 years of age no reference range has been established.


Reference values for osmolality:

-0-12 months: 50-750 mOsm/kg

->12 months: 150-1,150 mOsm/kg

-Please note above the age of 20 there is an age-dependent decline in the upper reference range of approximately 5 mOsm/kg/year.



This test detects the presence of overt proteinuria (>300 mg/day). However, normal urinary protein excretion is less than 30 mg/day. The presence of microalbuminuria (30-300 mg/day) is not detected by this method. Overt proteinuria is seen in both renal (eg, glomerulonephritis, renal tubular diseases, pyelonephritis) and nonrenal diseases (eg, myeloma, congestive heart failure, dehydration).


Reference values for protein:

<26 mg/dL

Reference values have not been established for patients under 18 years of age.



The test is specific for glucose. No other substance excreted in urine is known to give a positive result, including other reducing substances (eg, galactose, fructose, and lactose). This test may be used to determine whether the reducing substance found in urine is glucose. Glucosuria occurs when the renal threshold for glucose is exceeded (typically >180 mg/dL); this is most commonly, although not exclusively, seen in diabetes.


Reference values for glucose:

<16 mg/dL



Urine pH is affected by diet, medications, systemic acid-base disturbances, and renal tubular function. pH may affect urinary stone formation. For example, urine pH below 6.0 may help reduce the tendency for calcium phosphate stones and pH greater than 6.0 may reduce the tendency for uric acid stone formation.



Produced during metabolism of fat, increased ketones may occur during physiological stress conditions such as fasting, pregnancy, strenuous exercise, and frequent vomiting. In diabetics who are unable to efficiently utilize glucose due to a lack of insulin, starvation, or with other abnormalities of carbohydrate or lipid metabolism, ketones may appear in the urine in large amounts before serum ketone is elevated.



Bilirubinuria is an indicator of liver disease and biliary tract obstruction.



Hemoglobinuria is an indicator of intravascular hemolysis. The test is equally sensitive to myoglobin as to hemoglobin. The presence of hemoglobin, in the absence of RBCs, is consistent with intravascular hemolysis. RBCs may be missed if lysis occurred prior to analysis; the absence of RBCs should be confirmed by examining a fresh specimen. The presence of myoglobin may be confirmed by MYGLU / Myoglobin, Urine.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances


-Urine glucose monitoring for the management of diabetes mellitus has essentially been replaced by more accurate and reliable fingerstick blood glucose determination. Also, as a screening test for diabetes mellitus, urine glucose testing has a low sensitivity (though reasonably good specificity).

-Drugs: No interference was found at therapeutic concentrations using common drug panels.

-Normal neonatal infants during the first 10 to 14 days of life may excrete urine giving a positive reaction due to glucose, galactose, lactose, and fructose.(2) The hexokinase method on the chemistry analyzer is specific for glucose only.



-Substances causing false-positive results are bromsulphalein, phenolsulfonphthalein, phenylketone, cephalosporin, aldose-reductive antienzyme, and L-Dopa.

-Fasting or starvation diets may cause positive results.



-Elevated specific gravity, elevated protein, and large amounts of ascorbic acid may cause false-negative results.

-Oxidizing substances such as hypochlorite and chlorine may cause false-positive results.

-The test is equally sensitive to hemoglobin and myoglobin. The presence of hemoglobin, in the absence of RBCs, is consistent with intravascular hemolysis. RBCs may be missed if lysis occurred prior to analysis; the absence of RBCs should be confirmed by examining a fresh specimen. The presence of myoglobin may be confirmed by MYGLU / Myoglobin, Urine.



False-proteinuria may be due to contamination of urine with menstrual blood, prostatic secretions, or semen. The urinary protein concentration may rise to 300 mg/24 hours in healthy individuals after vigorous exercise.

Normal newborn infants may have higher excretion of protein in urine during the first 3 days of life. The presence of hemoglobin elevates protein concentration. Samples should be collected before fluorescein is given or not collected until at least 24 hours later.


Protein electrophoresis and immunofixation may be required to characterize and interpret the proteinuria.

-Microalbumin tests are necessary to pick up early increases in urine protein excretion.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Wilson DM, Anderson RL: Protein-osmolality ratio for the quantitative assessment of proteinuria from a random urinalysis sample. Am J Clin Pathol 1993 Oct;100(4):419-424

2. Bickel H: Mellituria, a paper chromatographic study. J Pediatr 1961 Nov;59:641-656

3. Morgenstern BZ, Butani L, Wollan P, et al: Validity of protein-osmolality versus protein-creatinine ratios in the estimation of quantitative proteinuria from random samples of urine in children. Am J Kidney Dis 2003 Apr;41(4):760-766

4. Grossfeld GD, Litwin MS, Wolf JS, et al: Evaluation of asymptomatic microscopic hematuria in adults: the American Urological Association best practice policy-part I: definition, detection, prevalence, and etiology. Urology 2001;57:599-603

5. Fairly KF, Birch DF: Hematuria: a simple method for identifying glomerular bleeding. Kidney Int 1982;21:105-108

6. Kohler H, Wandel E, Brunck B: Acanthocyturia - a characteristic marker for glomerular bleeding. Kidney Int 1991;40:115-120

7. Dixon KP, Holmes P, Holmes JH: Teaching slide preparations of urinary sediment. Am J Clin Pathol 1962;38:444-446

8. Prescott LF, Brodie DE: A simple differential stain for urinary sediment. Lancet 1964;2:940

9. Graff L: A Handbook of Routine Urinalysis, Philadelphia, JB Lippincott Co, 1982109. Brunzel NA: Fundamentals of Urine and Body Fluid Analysis. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co, 1994

10. Kaczmarek DW, Walker A, Belo H, et al: A two-laboratory comparison of the detecting of abnormal urine particulate levels by manual and automated microscopy, Laboratory Medicine 1988 Nov;19(11)

11. Robinson RR: Isolated proteinuria in asymptomatic patients. Kidney Int 1980;18:395-406

12. Dube J, Girouard J, Leclerc P, et al: Problems with the estimation of urine protein by automated assays. Clin Biochem 2005;(38):479-485

13. Koumantakis G, Wyndham L: Fluorescein Interference with Urinary Creatinine and Protein Measurements. Clin Chem 1991;37(10):1799