Total Protein

Definition

The total protein test measures the total amount of two classes of proteins found in the fluid portion of your blood: albumin and globulin.

Proteins are important parts of all cells and tissues. For example, albumin helps prevent fluid from leaking out of blood vessels. Globulins are an important part of your immune system.

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

Your health care provider may tell you to stop taking certain drugs that can affect the test.

Drugs that can increase total protein measurements include anabolic steroids, androgens, corticosteroids, dextran, growth hormone, insulin, phenazopyridine, and progesterone.

Drugs that can decrease total protein measurements include ammonium ions, estrogens, hepatotoxic drugs, and birth control pills.

Why the test is performed

This test is often done to diagnose nutritional problems, kidney disease or liver disease. If total protein is abnormal, further tests must be done to identify the specific problem.

Normal Values

The normal range is 6.0 to 8.3 gm/dL (grams per deciliter).

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

Higher-than-normal levels may be due to:

  • Chronic inflammation or infection, including HIV and hepatitis B or C
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Waldenstrom's disease

Lower-than-normal levels may be due to:

  • Agammaglobulinemia
  • Bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • Burns (extensive)
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Liver disease
  • Malabsorption
  • Malnutrition
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Protein-losing enteropathy

Special considerations

Total protein measurement may be increased during pregnancy.

References

Bazari H. Approach to the patient with renal disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 115.

Klein S. Protein-energy malnutrition. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 234.

Tricot G. Multiple myeloma. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Shattil SJ, et al, eds. Hoffman Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:chap 87.

Review Date: 5/30/2011

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