Prealbumin Test

Other names: Tryptophan-Rich Prealbumin; Transthyretin; Thyroxine-Binding Prealbumin

Prealbumin is an important protein, which is found in the blood. Prealbumin has a very short half-life of two days, which allows doctors to get an idea of a person’s nutrition very quickly.

When is the test used?

The test is used to assess and monitor a patient’s nutrition; it is a useful tool in the diagnosis of protein-calorie malnutrition, which occurs when the body breaks down muscle, body fat and protein. The test may be used to assess a patient’s nutrition before and after an operation or during a patient’s hospital stay.

The test is usually ordered when a patient has symptoms of malnutrition, including rapid weight loss, stunted growth (in children), dry and yellowy skin, increased susceptibility to infections, brittle, limp hair and fainting; female patients may also find that their periods stop.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the arm; the blood is drawn out using a needle and syringe. Once the sample has been collected, the blood will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results mean?

The results of the prealbumin test give a general idea of a person’s nutrition; if the levels of prealbumin are lower than normal, this may also indicate that other substances, chemicals and proteins are also lacking.

If levels are low, the patient will probably be advised to change their diet; if they are very low, they may be diagnosed with malnutrition and this will require immediate treatment.

Low levels of prealbumin are often seen in patients with chronic or serious health conditions, including cancer, liver disease, severe infections and hyperthyroidism.

High levels of prealbumin may also be caused by health conditions; illnesses that may cause high prealbumin levels include Hodgkin’s disease and overactive adrenal glands; long-term use or high doses of corticosteroids may also cause levels to increase.

Specific Blood Tests

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