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Tests

Albumin - blood (serum)

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Definition

Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed. This may be taken through a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.

How to prepare for the test

The health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any drugs that may affect the test. Drugs that can increase albumin levels include anabolic steroids, androgens, growth hormone, and insulin.

Why the test is performed

This test can help determine if a patient has liver disease or kidney disease, or if the body is not absorbing enough protein.

Albumin helps move many small molecules through the blood, including bilirubin, calcium, progesterone, and medications. It plays an important role in keeping the fluid from the blood from leaking out into the tissues.

Normal Values

The normal range is 3.4 - 5.4 grams per deciliter (g/dL).

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The examples above show the common results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different samples.

What abnormal results mean

Lower-than-normal levels of serum albumin may be a sign of:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver disease (for example, hepatitis, or cirrhosis that make cause ascites)

Decreased blood albumin levels may occur when your body does not get or absorb enough nutrients, such as:

  • After weight-loss surgery
  • Crohn's disease
  • Low-protein diets
  • Sprue
  • Whipple's disease

Increased blood albumin level may be due to:

  • Dehydration
  • High protein diet
  • Having a tourniquet on for a long time when giving a blood sample

Other conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • Burns (widespread)
  • Wilson's disease

What the risks are

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Bleeding from where the needle was inserted
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood collecting under the skin)
  • Infection (rare)

Special considerations

If you are receiving large amounts of intravenous fluids, the results of this test may be inaccurate.

Albumin will be decreased during pregnancy.

References

Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver test results. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 149.

Pratt DS. Liver chemistry and function tests. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 73.

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