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Albumin - serum

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. For information on how this is done, see: 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 measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What abnormal results mean

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

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

Other conditions under which the test may be performed:

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. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 150.

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.


Review Date: 2/20/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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