A hemoglobin electrophoresis test is a blood
test done to check the different types of
hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the substance
in red blood cells that carries oxygen. See a picture of
The most common types of
normal hemoglobin are:
Hemoglobin F (fetal hemoglobin). This type is normally found in
fetuses and newborn babies. Hemoglobin F is replaced
by hemoglobin A (adult hemoglobin) shortly after birth; only very small amounts
of hemoglobin F are made after birth. Some diseases, such as
sickle cell disease,
aplastic anemia, and
leukemia, have abnormal types of hemoglobin and higher
amounts of hemoglobin F.
Hemoglobin A. This
is the most common type of hemoglobin found normally in adults. Some diseases,
such as severe forms of
thalassemia, may cause hemoglobin A levels to be low
and hemoglobin F levels to be high.
Hemoglobin A2. This is a normal type of hemoglobin found in small amounts in
More than 400 different types of abnormal hemoglobin have
been found, but the most common are:
Hemoglobin S. This type
of hemoglobin is present in sickle cell disease.
Hemoglobin C. This type of hemoglobin does not carry oxygen well.
Hemoglobin E. This type
of hemoglobin is found in people of Southeast Asian descent.
Hemoglobin D. This type of hemoglobin is present in a sickle cell disorder.
Hemoglobin H (heavy hemoglobin). This type of hemoglobin may be present in certain
types of thalassemia.
Hemoglobin S and hemoglobin C are the most common types of
abnormal hemoglobins that may be found by an electrophoresis test.
Electrophoresis uses an electrical current to separate normal and
abnormal types of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin types have different
electrical charges and move at different speeds. The amount of each hemoglobin
type in the current is measured.
An abnormal amount of normal
hemoglobin or an abnormal type of hemoglobin in the blood may mean that a
disease is present. Abnormal hemoglobin types may be present without any other
symptoms, may cause mild diseases that do not have symptoms, or cause diseases
that can be life-threatening. For example, hemoglobin S is found in sickle cell
disease, which is a serious abnormality of the blood and causes serious
Why It Is Done
Hemoglobin electrophoresis is done
- Find each type of hemoglobin in the blood. This
can be used to diagnose certain types of
anemia (such as thalassemia).
treatment for diseases that have abnormal types of hemoglobin in the
- Help couples find out how likely they are to have a child
with certain forms of anemia that can be passed from a parent to a child
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you are getting
iron therapy for
iron deficiency anemia.