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Total Serum Protein

A total serum protein test measures the total amount of protein in the blood. It also measures the amounts of two major groups of proteins in the blood: albumin and globulin.

  • Albumin is made mainly in the liver. It helps keep the blood from leaking out of blood vessels. Albumin also helps carry some medicines and other substances through the blood and is important for tissue growth and healing.
  • Globulin is made up of different proteins called alpha, beta, and gamma types. Some globulins are made by the liver, while others are made by the immune system. Certain globulins bind with hemoglobin. Other globulins transport metals, such as iron, in the blood and help fight infection. Serum globulin can be separated into several subgroups by serum protein electrophoresis. To learn more, see the topic Serum Protein Electrophoresis.

A test for total serum protein reports separate values for total protein, albumin, and globulin. Some types of globulin (such as alpha-1 globulin) also may be measured.

Why It Is Done

Albumin is tested to:

  • Check how well the liver and kidneys are working.
  • Find out if your diet contains enough protein.
  • Help determine the cause of swelling of the ankles (edema) or abdomen (ascites) or of fluid collection in the lungs that may cause shortness of breath (pulmonary edema).

Globulin is tested to:

How To Prepare

No special preparation is required before having a total serum protein test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 02, 2013
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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