Other names: EPO

Erythropoietin is a hormone, which is produced by the kidneys. It is released into the blood when levels of oxygen are low; if this is the case, the hormone is transported to the bone marrow, where it helps to convert stem cells to red blood cells, which contain haemoglobin (this is the protein which carries oxygen around the body).

When is the test used?

The erythropoietin test is not commonly used but it can be useful for distinguishing between different forms of anaemia and polycythemia.

The test is usually ordered if the patient has an abnormal full blood count test result.

The test may also be carried out on patients who have kidney problems, which affect the production of erythropoietin.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by collecting and analysing a sample of blood from a vein in the arm; the blood is collected using a needle. Once the sample has been collected, it will be placed in a bottle, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results show?

If levels of erythropoietin are higher than usual and the patient has anaemia, this indicates that the anaemia is likely to be linked with a problem with bone marrow function.

If the patient has anaemia and levels of erythropoietin are low, this usually indicates that the kidneys are not producing enough erythropoietin.

If the patient has a high red blood cell count and high levels of erythropoietin, this may indicate that too much hormone is being produced.

If the levels of erythropoietin are normal or low and the patient has a high red blood cell count, this may indicate that they have polycythemia, which is not being caused by problems with erythropoietin production.

Specific Blood Tests

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