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Serum Protein Electrophoresis (SPEP)

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

What To Think About

  • Electrophoresis on protein in urine may also be done, especially if the results of the serum protein electrophoresis test are abnormal. Normally very little protein is found in urine, but certain diseases (such as multiple myeloma) cause large amounts of protein to leak into the urine.
  • Although abnormal protein levels may be found in many conditions (such as kidney disease, chronic liver disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, or leprosy), serum protein electrophoresis is usually not done to diagnose these conditions.
  • A special test can be done for one of the major parts of the alpha-1 globulin group (called alpha-1 antitrypsin). Alpha-1 antitrypsin inhibits enzymes in the lungs that break down protein. These enzymes can damage normal lung tissue and cause emphysema. People born without the ability to produce alpha-1 antitrypsin often develop severe emphysema at a young age. This condition can be detected by testing them for alpha-1 antitrypsin. To learn more, see the topic Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Genetic Testing.
  • A test for total serum protein is often done at the same time as serum protein electrophoresis. To learn more, see the topic Total Serum Protein.

Citations

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last RevisedJune 4, 2012
1|2|3

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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