Test Catalog

Test ID: MNB    
Manganese, Blood

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

Evaluation of central nervous system symptoms similar to Parkinson disease in manganese (Mn) miners and processors


Characterization of liver cirrhosis


Therapeutic monitoring in treatment of cirrhosis, parenteral nutrition-related Mn toxicity and environmental exposure to Mn


Evaluation of Behcet disease

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

Manganese (Mn) is a trace essential element with many industrial uses. Mining and iron and steel production have been implicated as occupational sources of exposure. It is principally used in steel production to improve hardness, stiffness, and strength. Mn is a normal constituent of air, soil, water, and food. The primary non-occupational source of exposure is by eating food or Mn-containing nutritional supplements. Vegetarians who consume foods rich in Mn such as grains, beans, and nuts, as well as, heavy tea drinkers may have a higher intake than the average person. People who smoke tobacco or inhale second-hand smoke are also exposed to Mn at higher levels than non-smokers.


Inhalation is the primary source of entry for Mn, but is also partially absorbed (3%-5%) through the gastrointestinal tract. Only very small amounts of Mn are absorbed dermally. Signs of toxicity may appear quickly, and neurological symptoms are rarely reversible. Mn toxicity is generally recognized to progress through 3 stages. Levy describes these stages. "The first stage is a prodrome of malaise, somnolence, apathy, emotional lability, sexual dysfunction, weakness, lethargy, anorexia, and headaches. If there is continued exposure, progression to a second stage may occur, with psychological disturbances, including impaired memory and judgement, anxiety, and sometimes psychotic manifestations such as hallucinations. The third stage consists of progressive bradykinesia, dysarthrian axial and extremity dystonia, paresis, gait disturbances, cogwheel rigidity, intention tremor, impaired coordination, and a mask-like face. Many of those affected may be permanently and completely disabled."(1) Mn is removed from the blood by the liver where it's conjugated with bile and excreted.


The major compartment for circulating Mn is the erythrocytes, bound to hemoglobin, with whole blood concentrations of Mn (in patients with normal levels) being 10 times that of the serum. Mn passes from the blood to the tissues quickly. Concentrations in the liver are highest, with 1 to 1.5 mg Mn/kg (wet weight) in normal individuals. The half-life of Mn in the body is about 40 days, with elimination primarily through the feces. Only small amounts are excreted in the urine.


Elevated levels of whole blood Mn have been reported, with and without central nervous system (CNS) symptoms, in patients with hepatitis B virus-induced liver cirrhosis, in patients on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) with Mn supplementation, and in infants born to mothers who were on TPN. The studies in cirrhotic patients with extrapyramidal symptoms indicate a possible correlation between whole blood Mn and that measured by T1-weighted magnetic resonance in the globus pallidus and midbrain, with whole blood Mn levels being 2-fold or more, higher than normal. Increases in whole blood Mn over time may be indicative of future CNS effects. The data on TPN patients is based on anecdotes or small studies and is highly variable, as is that obtained in infants.(2)


Behcet disease, a form of chronic systemic vasculitis, has been reported to exhibit 4-fold increase in erythrocyte Mn and it is suggested that increased activity of superoxide dismutase may contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease.


Mn has also been reported as a contaminant in "garage" preparations of the abused drug methcathinone. Continued use of the drug gives rise to CNS toxicity typical of manganism.(3)


For monitoring therapy, whether of environmental exposure, TPN, or cirrhosis, whole blood levels have been shown to correlate well with neuropsychological improvement, although whether the laboratory changes precede the CNS or merely track with them is unclear as yet. It is recommended that both CNS functional testing and laboratory evaluation be used to monitor therapy of these patients. Long-term monitoring of Behcet disease has not been reported, and it is not known if the Mn levels respond to therapy.

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.

4.7-18.3 ng/mL

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Whole blood levels above the normal range are indicative of manganism (Mn). Values between 1 and 2 times the upper limit of normal may be due to differences in hematocrit and normal biological variation, and should be interpreted with caution before concluding that hypermanganesemia is contributing to the disease process. Values greater than twice the upper limit of normal correlate with disease. For longitudinal monitoring, sampling no more frequently than the half-life of the element (40 days) should be used.

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

Whole blood manganese (Mn) concentrations are not responsive to dietary depletion, but measures of serum Mn are potentially useful.


Contamination of the collection site and of the specimen must be avoided. In the case of environmental evaluation, do not collect specimens in the workplace. Failure to use metal-free collection procedures and devices may cause falsely increased results. See Specimen Required and Trace Metals Analysis Specimen Collection and Transport in Special Instructions for collection and processing information.

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

1. Levy BS, Nassetta WJ: Neurologic effects of manganese in humans: A review. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2003 Apr-Jun;9(2):153-163

2. Choi Y, Park JK, Park NH, et al: Whole blood and red blood cell manganese reflected signal intensities of T1-weighted magnetic resonance images better than plasma manganese in liver cirrhotics. J Occup Health. 2005 Feb 10;47:68-73

3. Sanotsky Y, Lesyk R, Fedoryshyn L, et al: Manganic encephalopathy due to "Ephedrone" abuse. Mov Disord. 2007;22:1337-1343

4. Jiang Y, Zheng W, Long L, et al: Brain magnetic resonance imaging and manganese concentrations in red blood cells of smelting workers: search for biomarkers of manganese exposure. NeuroToxicology. 2007 Jan;28:126-135

5. Guilarte T, Chen M, McGlothan J, et al: Nigrostriatal dopamine system dysfunction and subtle motor deficits in manganese-exposed non-human primates. Exp Neurol. 2006;202:381-390

Special Instructions Library of PDFs including pertinent information and forms related to the test