At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
When to Get Tested?
Routinely as part of the blood tests done for a physical; when your doctor thinks that you have symptoms of a liver disorder or kidney disease; sometimes when you have an unintended weight loss, have symptoms associated with malnutrition, or prior to a planned surgery
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
This test measures the level of albumin in the blood. Albumin is a protein made by the liver. It makes up about 60% of the total protein in the blood and plays many roles. It keeps fluid from leaking out of blood vessels; nourishes tissues; and transports hormones, vitamins, drugs, and ions like calcium throughout the body. The concentration of albumin in the blood is a reflection of liver function and of nutritional status.
Levels of albumin may decrease, to a greater or lesser degree, when conditions interfere with its production, increase protein breakdown, increase protein loss, and/or expand plasma volume (diluting the blood). Some of these conditions include:
- Acute liver disease, cirrhosis
- Nephrotic syndrome due to kidney disease
- Chronic inflammatory diseases, inflammation
- Malnutrition and malabsorption
- Chronic illness
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Plasma volume expansion due to congestive heart failure, sometimes pregnancy
Albumin levels can rise when a person is dehydrated. This is a relative increase that occurs as the volume of plasma decreases.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is taken by a needle from a vein.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Sources Used in Current Review
Dugdale, D. (Updated 2011 February 20). Albumin – serum. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003480.htm. Accessed January 2013.
Delgado, J. (Updated 2012 November). Proteins. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/Proteins.html?client_ID=LTD through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed January 2013.
Devaraj, S. (Updated 2012 January 5). Albumin. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2054430-overview#showall through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed January 2013.
(© 1995-2013). Albumin, Serum. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/8436 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed January 2013.
Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 799-804.
Clarke, W., Editor (© 2011). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry 2nd Edition: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 234.
McPherson, R. and Pincus, M. (© 2011). Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods 22nd Edition: Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia, PA. Pp 264-265.
Sources Used in Previous Reviews
Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.
Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 775-780.
Clarke, W. and Dufour, D. R., Editors (© 2006). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 197-198.
Wu, A. (© 2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, 4th Edition: Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. Pp 66-71.
Dugdale, III, D. (Updated 2009 February 23). Albumin – serum. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003480.htm. Accessed June 2009.
Shashidhar, H. and Grigsby, D. (Updated 2009 April 9). Malnutrition. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/985140-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed June 2009.
Peralta, R. et. al. (Updated 2008 June 17). Hypoalbuminemia. eMedicine Critical Care [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/166724-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. June 2009.
(Updated 2008 December). Proteins. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/GastrointestinalDz/NutritionalAssessment/Proteins.html through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed June 2009.