What Is a Total Protein Test?
Albumin and globulin are two types of protein in your body. The
total protein test measures the total amount albumin and globulin in your body.
It’s used as part of your routine health checkup. It may also be used if you
have unexpected weight loss, fatigue, or the symptoms of a kidney or liver
What Are Proteins?
Proteins are important building blocks of all cells and
tissues. Proteins are necessary for your body’s growth, development, and
health. Blood contains albumin and globulin. Albumin proteins keep fluid from
leaking out of your blood vessels. Globulin proteins play an important role in
your immune system.
Purpose of the Total Protein Test
A total protein test is completed as part of your routine
health checkup. It’s one of the tests that make up your comprehensive medical
panel (CMP). It may be ordered if you have:
- unexplained weight loss
- edema, which is swelling caused by extra fluid
in your tissues
- symptoms of kidney or liver disease
The total protein test measures the total amount of protein
in your blood and specifically looks for the amount of albumin and globulin.
This test will also look at the ratio of albumin to globulin
in your blood. This is known as the “A/G ratio.”
How Is the Total Protein Test Performed?
The test uses a blood sample that’s analyzed in the
laboratory. To get a blood sample, the lab technician will draw blood from a
vein in your arm or the back of your hand. First, they’ll clean the site with
an antiseptic wipe. They’ll wrap a band around your arm to apply pressure to
the area and gently insert the needle into the vein. The blood will collect
into a tube attached to the needle. Once the tube is full, the band and the
needle will be removed from your arm. They’ll put pressure on the puncture site
to stop any bleeding.
In infants or small children, a lancet is used to puncture
the skin and the blood collects in a small glass pipette, test strip, or onto a
slide. A bandage may be placed over the area if there’s any bleeding.
Preparing for the Total Protein Test
You don’t need to make any special preparations before the
test is done. Your doctor will let you know if you should avoid food or drinks
before the test.
Many medications can affect the total protein test results.
Talk to your doctor about your current medication use before you take this
Medications that can affect the test results include:
- growth hormone
- ammonium ions
- birth control pills
You may feel moderate pain or discomfort from the blood
test. The risks associated with having a blood test are minimal. In some cases,
you may experience:
- excessive bleeding
- fainting or feeling light-headed
- developing a hematoma, which occurs when blood
gathers under your skin
There is a risk of infection any time your skin is broken.
What Do the Results Mean?
Total Protein Range
The normal range for total protein is between 6 and 8.3 grams
per deciliter (g/dL). This range may vary slightly among laboratories. These
ranges are also due to other factors such as:
- test method
Your total protein measurement may increase during
If total protein is abnormal, additional tests must be
performed to identify which specific protein is low or high before a diagnosis
can be made.
Elevated total protein may indicate:
- inflammation or infections, such as viral
hepatitis B or C, or HIV
bone marrow disorders, such as multiple myeloma
or Waldenstrom’s disease
Low total protein may indicate:
- liver disorder
- kidney disorder, such as a nephrotic disorder or
- malabsorption conditions, such as celiac disease
or inflammatory bowel disease
- extensive burns
- agammaglobulinemia, which is an inherited
condition in which your blood doesn’t have enough of a type of globulin, affecting
the strength of your immune system
- inflammatory conditions
- delayed post-surgery recovery
Low albumin is considered albumin below 3.4 g/dL. It’s
associated with decreased effectiveness of medications used for ulcerative
colitis. Low albumin levels may result in complications during or after
Normally, the A/G (albumin to globulin) ratio is slightly higher
than 1. If the ratio is too low or too high, additional testing must be done to
determine the cause and diagnosis. If the ratio is low, it can suggest:
- autoimmune disease
- multiple myeloma
- kidney disease
A high A/G ratio can indicate genetic deficiencies or
leukemia. Make sure to discuss your results with your doctor. They may want to
do follow-up testing.