We have developed a rapid and robust method for the determination of urea in spent haemodialysis fluid as a measure of the efficiency of haemodialysis treatments. A novel flow analysis instrument (which generates a pulsed solution flow) was coupled with a chemiluminescence detection system, based on the oxidation of urea with hypobromite. The ‘pulsed-flow chemiluminescence analyser’ exhibited high precision (1.6% relative standard deviation (R.S.D.) for a 1×10−5 M urea standard, n=10) and good limit of detection (9×10−7 M, S/N=3) as a result of the rapid and reproducible mixing of small volumes of reagent and sample at the point of detection. The proposed chemiluminescence technique and an established urease-based laboratory procedure were compared, and showed a very similar trend for the change in urea concentration during a typical haemodialysis treatment. The relative chemiluminescence response from the oxidation of species with similar structure has revealed the inherent selectivity of the light producing pathway, but a positive interference was obtained from protein when this technique was applied to the determination of urea in serum samples. Arginine was identified as the predominant source of this interference.
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