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.
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:
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)
If you are receiving large amounts of intravenous fluids, the results of this test may be inaccurate.
Albumin will be decreased during pregnancy.
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.
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.