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Serum Protein Electrophoresis (SPEP)

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having blood drawn from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

The serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) test measures specific proteins in the blood to help identify some diseases. Test results for each protein group are given as a percentage of the total amount of serum protein. To obtain the actual amount of each fraction, a test that measures the total serum protein must also be done.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Results are usually ready in 2 to 3 days.

Serum protein electrophoresis1
 Total serum protein amount in grams per deciliter (g/dL)Total serum protein amount in grams per liter (g/L) (SI units)
Albumin (adult)

3.8–5.0

38–50

Alpha-1 globulin

0.1–0.3

1–3

Alpha-2 globulin

0.6–1

6–10

Beta globulin

0.7–1.4

7–14

Gamma globulin

0.7–1.6

7–16

High values

High values may be caused by many conditions. Some of the most common are shown here.

  • High albumin: Dehydration
  • High alpha-1 globulin: Infection; inflammation
  • High alpha-2 globulin: Inflammation; kidney disease
  • High beta globulin: Very high cholesterol; low iron (iron-deficiency anemia)
  • High gamma globulin: Inflammation; infection; liver disease; some forms of cancer

Low values

Low values may be caused by many conditions. Some of the most common are shown here.

  • Low albumin: Poor nutrition; inflammation; liver disease; kidney disease
  • Low alpha-1 globulin: Severe inflammation; liver disease
  • Low alpha-2 globulin: Thyroid problems; liver disease
  • Low beta globulin: Poor nutrition
  • Low gamma globulin: Problems with the immune system

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 04, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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