A total protein test measures the total amount of protein in the blood. There are two major types of proteins in the blood: albumin and globulin. A change in the level of either type of protein may cause an abnormal total protein value.
Total protein may be measured for many different reasons. For example, a healthcare professional may measure total protein if he or she suspects or finds: abnormal swelling in the bodycertain types of blood cancerkidney diseaseliver diseasenutritional problems, including malnutrition
To measure total protein in the bloodstream, a blood sample is needed. Blood is usually taken from a vein on the forearm or hand. First, the skin over the vein is cleaned with an antiseptic. Next, a strong rubber tube, or tourniquet, is wrapped around the upper arm. This enlarges the veins in the lower arm by restricting blood flow through them. A fine needle is gently inserted into a vein, and the tourniquet is removed. Blood flows from the vein through the needle and is collected in a syringe or vial. The blood is then sent to the laboratory for testing. After the needle is withdrawn, the puncture site is covered for a short time to prevent bleeding.
Specific instructions are available from a healthcare professional. Generally, no preparation is required.
Normally, protein levels in the blood serum range from around 6.0 to 8.3 grams per deciliter. These values are different in younger children.
High total protein levels may result from: arthritischronic infectionsdehydrationHodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrowleukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrowvomiting and diarrhea
Low total protein levels may be due to: blood losscirrhosis and other liver diseasescongestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart fails to pump enough bloodeclampsia, a serious condition causing high blood pressure in pregnant womenkidney diseaseleukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrowmalabsorption, inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestinesmalnutritionsevere burnspoisoningprolonged, severe illnessshock, a condition resulting in lowered blood flow to vital organsuncontrolled diabetes
The individual laboratory results for albumin and globulin are helpful in interpreting an abnormal total protein level.
Sobel, D., MD&Ferguson, T., MD (1985). The People's Book of Medical Tests. New York: Summit Books.
The American Dietetic Association Practice Group: The Consultant Dietitians in Health Care Facilities-Professional Development Committee. (1994). Pocket Resource for Nutrition Assessment.