Haloperidol, Serum or Plasma

CPT: 80173
Updated on 2/6/2019
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Test Details


  • Haldol®


Half-life is 15 to 40 hours. Haloperidol is an antipsychotic tranquilizer used to control acute and chronic psychotic disorders, for the control of Tourette syndrome, and for the treatment of severe behavior problems in hyperactive children. Haloperidol is metabolized by dealkalization, oxidation, and conjugation; the hydroxy derivative is active but concentrations are very low. Haloperidol should be monitored to assess and optimize dosing regimens and maintenance therapy since the relationship between dosage and serum levels at steady-state can be highly variable. The drug should also be monitored to assess adverse reactions and changes associated with co-administered drugs. Haloperidol can increase serum tricyclic level, increase the toxicity of lithium, inhibit hypertensive action and antagonize the stimulant effect of amphetamines.


This test was developed and its performance characteristics determined by LabCorp. It has not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

This test was developed and its performance characteristics determined by LabCorp. It has not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.


Liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS-MS)

Reference Interval

Therapeutic: 1-10 ng/mL

Critical Value

Potentially toxic: >50 ng/mL

Additional Information

Haloperidol is well absorbed orally; however, a first-pass effect results in 60% (range 44% to 74%) oral bioavailability. Time to peak effect after intramuscular and oral administration is one and three hours, respectively. Volume of distribution is 20 L/kg, and plasma protein binding is 92%. Clearance (11.8±2.9 mL/kg/minute) is greater in children and smokers and is reduced in the elderly. The metabolism of haloperidol involves cleavage by oxidative N-dealkylation to piperidine metabolites and 4-fluorobenzoylpropionic acid; <1% of unchanged haloperidol is excreted in the urine. The mean plasma half-life after oral administration of single doses varies from 14 to 24 hours. Haloperidol (ketone) also undergoes reversible metabolism to reduced haloperidol (alcohol); the reduced metabolite is much less active than the parent compound. Although the clearance of reduced haloperidol is similar, its Vd and half-life (67±51 hours) are considerably longer. The accumulation and slow reconversion of reduced haloperidol to parent compound increases the apparent plasma elimination half-life of haloperidol (3 to 10 days) with repeated dosing.

Because of the lack of active metabolites, several studies have investigated the relationship between plasma levels and clinical response. Most studies suggest that typical levels vary between 5 and 15−25 ng/mL. Dopamine (D2) receptors in the brain appear to be approximately 90% saturated at plasma concentrations of 15−20 ng/mL. In reviews and a recent study of the dose-response relationship, plasma levels exceeding 15−20 ng/mL were associated with no improvement and possibly decreased efficacy. Concomitant administration of phenytoin, carbamazepine, or phenobarbital decreases the steady-state plasma concentrations of haloperidol; fluoxetine has the opposite effect.

The activity of haloperidol decanoate, a depot preparation, depends on the enzymatic hydrolysis of the ester to free haloperidol. Haloperidol decanoate, given once every three to four weeks (in amounts approximately 20 times the daily oral maintenance dose of haloperidol), has maintained patients with chronic schizophrenia for over one year. Steady-state plasma concentrations of 2−8 ng/mL are reached by the third monthly injection. This long delay may necessitate an intramuscular loading dose and/or supplemental oral medication during the first two to three months of therapy.

Specimen Requirements


Serum or plasma


4 mL

Minimum Volume

1.6 mL


Red-top tube, lavender-top (EDTA) tube, or green-top (heparin) tube. Do not use a gel-barrier tube. The use of gel-barrier tubes is not recommended due to slow absorption of the drug by the gel. Depending on the specimen volume and storage time, the decrease in drug level due to absorption may be clinically significant.


Transfer separated serum or plasma to a plastic transport tube.

Storage Instructions

Room temperature

Stability Requirements



Room temperature

14 days


14 days


14 days

Causes for Rejection

Gel-barrier tube

Clinical Information


American Medical Association, Division of Drugs and Toxicology. Drug Evaluations Subscription. Chicago, Ill: AMA, Winter 1992.
Darby JK, Pasta DJ, Dabiri L, et al. Haloperidol dose and blood level variability: Toxicity and interindividual and intraindividual variability in the nonresponder patient in the clinical practice. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1995; 15(5):334-340. 8830064
Davis JM, Chen N. Dose response and dose equivalence of antipsychotics. J Clin Psychopharm. 2004; 24(2):192-208. 15206667
Volavka J, Czobor P, Nolan K, et al. Overt aggression and psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia treated with clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, or haloperidol. J Clin Psychopharm. 2004; 24(2):225-228.15206671


Order Code Order Code Name Order Loinc Result Code Result Code Name UofM Result LOINC
070482 Haloperidol (Haldol(R)) Serum 3669-9 070482 Haloperidol (Haldol(R)) Serum ng/mL 3669-9

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