UMEM Educational Pearls

The delta gap is a measurement intended to assess for mixed acid-base disorders. A straightforward alternative, the strong ion difference (SID), allows for a quick and simple assessment of any non-gap acidosis or alkalosis that may be present.

The SID is simply the difference between the strong cations (Na+, K+, Mg+, Ca+) and the strong anions (Cl-) present in the serum. The abbreviated SID is the difference between the serum sodium and serum chloride levels (approximately 138-102). Values typically range from 36-40 mg/dl. Values less than 36 denote the presence of some degree of hyperchloremic, non-gap, acidosis. While values greater than 40 demonstrate the presence of hypochloremic, non-gap, alkalosis. And while on rare occasions, variations in albumin or elevated levels of cations other than sodium can lead you astray, the SID is as accurate as a delta gap at identifying mixed acid-based disorders without the added mathematical complexity.


Story DA. Stewart Acid-Base: A Simplified Bedside Approach. Anesth Analg. 2016;123(2):511-5.