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Albumin - blood (serum) test

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.

Albumin can also be measured in the urine.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

The health care provider may tell you to temporarily stop taking certain medicines that can affect the test. Drugs that can increase albumin levels include:

Do not stop taking any of your medicines without talking to your provider first.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging.

Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

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

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

Normal Results

The normal range is 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

A lower-than-normal level of blood albumin may be a sign of:

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

Increased blood albumin may be due to:

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

Other conditions for which the test may be performed:

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

Albumin will be decreased during pregnancy.

Risks

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 lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood collecting under the skin)
  • Infection (rare)

References

McPherson RA. Specific proteins. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 19.

Review Date:2/8/2015
Reviewed By:Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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