Total Protein test

Other names: TP

The total protein test gives doctors an idea of all the proteins present in the plasma component of the blood; the test results give a measurement of the total number of two classes of proteins, known as albumin and globulin. Albumin plays an important role in preventing the leakage of fluids from the blood vessels, while globulin proteins contain important enzymes and antibodies, as well as other important types of protein. Proteins are essential for growth, development and good general health.

When is the test used?

Total protein levels can be used to assess patients who are suspected of having malnourishment, as well as those with symptoms of kidney or liver disease.

The test is usually ordered when a patient has symptoms of liver or kidney disease; the test may also be ordered of the doctor suspects that a patient has oedema (when fluid collects in the tissues).

How is the test done?

The test is performed by taking and analysing a sample of the patient’s blood. A needle is inserted into a vein in the arm and the blood is drawn out using a syringe. Once the doctor or nurse has a sufficient sample, the blood will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for testing.

What do the test results mean?

If the test results show that levels of protein are low, this may indicate that a patient has liver or kidney problems; low levels may also indicate a problem which is affecting the absorption or digestion of proteins. Further tests will be ordered in order to reach a more accurate diagnosis.

High levels of protein may indicate certain forms of cancer or dehydration.

Certain types of medication may affect the levels of protein in the blood; these drugs include anabolic steroids, androgens, insulin and progesterone. Oestrogen treatment may cause levels of protein to decrease.

If a tourniquet is used for a long period of time before the blood is collected for the test, this may affect the level of protein; prolonged use may increase protein levels.

Specific Blood Tests

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