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What is Total Protein test?

The total protein test measures the levels of protein in your bloodstream. 

Proteins are the essential building blocks of body tissues and cells. They are responsible for the production of hormones and enzymes in the body and play a significant role in the growth, development and overall health of the body. 

A protein or total protein test measures two classes of proteins:

  • Globulin: Produced by the immune system. Makes up for 40% of the total protein levels
  • Albumin: Produced by the liver and makes up about 60% of the total protein 

Typically, compared to globulins, albumin is present in a higher amount in blood, which provides a normal albumin/globulin ratio of slightly more than 1.

  1. Why is a Total Protein test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Total Protein test?
  3. How is a Total Protein test performed?
  4. What do Total Protein test results mean?

Usually, albumin and total protein tests are included in routine tests, which are performed to check the overall health of a person.

A total protein test helps diagnose various conditions, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition (a condition in which an individual’s diet does not include adequate nutrients to meet their body’s requirements)
  • Kidney disease

Doctor order this test if the following symptoms of liver diseases, like cirrhosis, are observed:

Additional tests may be ordered to diagnose the condition if total protein test results show up as abnormal.

Inform your doctor about your symptoms, any supplements, herbs, vitamins and prescribed medications that you may be consuming, including illicit drugs and non-prescription medicines.

Your doctor might instruct you to discontinue consumption of certain medicines before the test. Do not stop taking any medication on your own. 

Total protein test is performed on a blood sample. Typically, a technician collects blood from a vein located at the back of the hand or inner side of the elbow.

  • You will be asked to be seated or to lie down and make a fist
  • A rubber band will be tied around your arm to locate a vein
  • Once a vein is seen, the technician will clean the area from where the blood sample is to be collected and insert a needle to withdraw the required amount of blood
  • After this, he/she will place a bandage over the blood withdrawal site to stop bleeding

A heel stick and fingerstick might be used to collect a blood sample in newborns and children, respectively.

Normal value of the test result might slightly vary among different laboratories. Consult a doctor to understand the correct interpretation of results.

Normal results:

  • Total protein: 6.4-8.3 g/dL
  • Alpha-1 globulin: 0.1-0.3 g/dL
  • Alpha-2 globulin: 0.6-1.0 g/dL
  • Albumin: 3.5-5.0 g/dL
  • Beta globulin: 0.7-1.1 g/dL

Abnormal results:

Results with values lower than the normal total protein value might occur due to the following reasons:

  • Protein-losing enteropathy (any condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, which causes a net loss of protein from the body)
  • Agammaglobulinaemia (lack of the gamma globulin in the blood plasma, which causes immune deficiency)
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Haemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Malabsorption (a condition in which people are unable to absorb nutrients from the diet)
  • Extensive burns
  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the glomeruli (tiny filters in the kidneys)
  • Liver disease

(Read more: Globulin test results)

The results with total protein values higher than the normal value might occur due to the following reasons:

  • Multiple myelomas (rare cancer that forms in the plasma cell (a type of white blood cell)
  • Chronic infection or inflammation, including hepatitis C or B and HIV
  • Waldenstrom’s disease (a type of cancer in which cancer cells make an abnormal protein in large amounts)

The total protein measurement levels might increase during pregnancy. The values might also increase in people with conditions that cause dehydration or abnormally high protein production. 

(Read more: Albumin test results)

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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  1. KidsHealth. Blood Test: Liver Function Tests. The Nemours Foundation. [internet].
  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Total Protein and A/G Ratio. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release; Agricultural Research Service
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; Blood Test
  4. MedlinePlus Medical: US National Library of Medicine; Total protein
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Total protein