Albumin (clinical analyzes)

Content

Introduction

Introduction

The test serves to know the concentration of albumin, the most abundant protein present in the liquid part (plasma) of the blood.

Its main functions are:

  • keep the fluid level in the blood vessels constant avoiding its leakage and diffusion into the tissues
  • act as a powerful plasma antioxidant  
  • carry hormones, vitamins, drugs, and ions (for example calcium) to the whole organism

Its concentration in the blood depends mainly on the function of the liver that produces it.

It can increase in case of dehydration while it decreases in the presence of:

  • damaged liver
  • kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome
  • severe inflammation and shock

Since it can decrease in many diseases and disorders of various origins, the test is used not only to ascertain them (diagnose them) but also to check their progression or to assess a person's nutritional status.

The search for albumin values ​​may be requested by the doctor if he believes that one of his patients has disorders attributable to liver or kidney disease, or to evaluate any malabsorption problems. It is performed, above all, in the hospital in patients who have to undergo a scheduled surgery. People with chronic liver or kidney diseases, as well as those suffering from malabsorption (diseases affecting the digestive system) and chronic diarrhea, are at greater risk of alterations in albumin levels.

The test

The test

The exam does not require any preparation and consists in taking a small amount (sample) of blood from the arm through a needle inserted into a vein.

The blood drawn is placed in a test tube with a label, in most cases pre-printed, with the name of the person undergoing the test, the identification number and all the information necessary to ensure that the sample is analyzed for all required exams and that the results are matched to the name.

When to run it

The doctor will ask for an analysis of albumin values ​​in the blood, usually together with many other tests, if the person who refers to him has disorders (symptoms) attributable to diseases of the liver (for example jaundice) or kidney ( swelling around the eyes, stomach or legs) or if you have problems with protein malabsorption (weight loss).

The analysis may also be requested in the presence of an infection or inflammation since its concentration can provide information on the severity of the disease.

The decrease in albumin in the blood can cause fluid to escape from the blood vessels and spread to the tissues with the consequent formation of swelling (edema).

Results

Results

Concentrations of albumin in the blood above or below normal levels may indicate the presence of various disorders or diseases:

  • low concentrations of albumin in the blood may suggest:
    • liver disease, in this case the doctor will order liver enzyme testing to check if a disease is present (for example cirrhosis)
    • renal failure, that is, a malfunction of the kidneys that are no longer able to retain the albumin in the blood and let it pass into the urine. In this case, the doctor will prescribe the analysis for the search for albumin (or more generally proteins) in the urine. Urinary albumin may slightly increase in the case of inflammation but significantly increases in patients suffering from nephrotic syndrome: therefore, a high albumin value in the urine will correspond to a low albumin value in the blood.
      Individuals with liver disease (disease) and chronic kidney disease are at higher risk for abnormal blood albumin
    • severe inflammatory state or shock
    • diseases that result in insufficient absorption (malabsorption) and digestion of proteins as occurs, for example, in Crohn's disease
    • low-protein diet or malnutrition
  • high concentrations of albumin in the blood usually reflect:
    • dehydration

Furthermore:

  • some medications, including anabolic steroids, androgens, growth hormones and insulin increase the concentration of albumin in the blood
  • large amounts of fluids given intravenously, they can make the result of the analysis inaccurate
  • inflammatory conditions of any kind or the presence of prolonged diarrhea, can cause changes in blood albumin concentrations

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