DefinitionAlbumin 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 performedA blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture.
How to prepare for the testThe 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 performedThis 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 ValuesThe 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 meanLower-than-normal levels of serum albumin may be a sign of:Kidney diseasesLiver disease (for example, hepatitis, cirrhosis, orascites)Decreased albumin may occur when your body does not get or absorb enough nutrients, such as:After weight-loss surgeryCrohn's diseaseLow-protein dietsSprueWhipple's diseaseOther conditions under which the test may be performed:Burns (widespread)Wilson's disease
What the risks areThere 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 insertedFainting or feeling light-headedHematoma (blood collecting under the skin)Infection (rare)
Special considerationsIf you are receiving large amounts of intravenous fluids, the results of this test may be inaccurate.Albumin will be decreased during pregnancy.
ReferencesBerk 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.