Protein Electrophoresis, Serum

The Protein Electrophoresis, Serum test contains 1 test with 11 biomarkers.

Brief Description: A Protein Electrophoresis Serum test is a laboratory test that separates and measures different proteins in the blood based on their electrical charge and size. The test helps to identify abnormal protein patterns and quantities, aiding in the diagnosis and monitoring of various medical conditions.

Also Known As: SPEP Test, Protein Total and Electrophoresis Test, Protein ELP Test, SPE Test, Serum Protein Electrophoresis Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a Protein Electrophoresis test ordered?

In order to further investigate anomalous results from other laboratory tests or to assess a patient's symptoms, protein electrophoresis may be requested. Electrophoresis may be prescribed periodically after a disease or illness has been diagnosed to track its progression and the efficacy of treatment.

One may request serum electrophoresis:

  • As a follow-up to aberrant results on other laboratory tests, such as elevated urine protein levels, elevated calcium levels, low white- or red-blood-cell counts, total protein and/or albumin levels,
  • when symptoms point to an autoimmune illness, an acute or ongoing infection, a kidney or liver disorder, or a condition that causes protein loss,
  • Look for the presence of a distinctive band in the beta or gamma region when a medical professional is looking into symptoms that point to multiple myeloma, such as bone pain, anemia, fatigue, unexplained fractures, or recurrent infections; if a sharp band is seen, its identity as a monoclonal immunoglobulin is typically confirmed by immunofixation electrophoresis.
  • to observe the progression of multiple myeloma treatment to see if the monoclonal band shrinks or vanishes entirely.

What does a Protein Electrophoresis test check for?

All cells and organs depend heavily on proteins as their building blocks. They make up the structural components of the majority of organs and the hormones and enzymes that control bodily processes. The proteins found in bodily fluids perform a wide range of various tasks, including the transportation of nutrients, the elimination of toxins, the regulation of metabolic processes, and the defense against foreign invaders. These proteins can be divided via a process called protein electrophoresis depending on their size and electrical charge.

When bodily fluid proteins are separated by electrophoresis, a distinctive pattern of bands with varying widths and intensities forms, representing the protein combination present. There are five components of this pattern: albumin, alpha 1, alpha 2, beta, and gamma. The beta fraction may occasionally be further split into beta 1 and beta 2.

About 60% of the blood's protein is made up of albumin, which is produced by the liver. Proteins other than albumin are referred to collectively as "globulins." The majority of globulins are likewise made in the liver, with the exception of immunoglobulins and a few complement proteins.

Lab tests often ordered with a Protein Electrophoresis test:

When an SPEP test is ordered, it's often part of a broader evaluation for conditions such as multiple myeloma, other gammopathies, liver diseases, and chronic inflammatory conditions. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. Immunofixation Electrophoresis (IFE):

    • Purpose: To identify specific types of immunoglobulins (antibodies) and to detect monoclonal proteins.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Often performed following an SPEP that shows abnormal results, to further characterize any abnormal proteins, especially in the evaluation of monoclonal gammopathies like multiple myeloma.
  2. Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, IgM):

    • Purpose: To measure the levels of the main classes of immunoglobulins.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess the overall immune function and to identify abnormalities in immunoglobulin production.
  3. Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential:

    • Purpose: To evaluate overall blood health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To check for signs of anemia, infection, or other blood-related conditions, which can be associated with disorders identified by SPEP.
  4. Kidney Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess kidney function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Because kidney dysfunction can be both a cause and a consequence of protein abnormalities, particularly in conditions like multiple myeloma.
  5. Calcium Level:

    • Purpose: To measure the level of calcium in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To detect hypercalcemia, which can occur in bone diseases and malignancies like multiple myeloma.
  6. Beta-2 Microglobulin:

    • Purpose: To measure levels of beta-2 microglobulin, a protein that can increase in certain blood cell cancers.
    • Why Is It Ordered: As a marker of tumor load in multiple myeloma and other lymphoproliferative disorders.
  7. Liver Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess liver health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate liver function, as liver disorders can affect protein synthesis and breakdown.
  8. Urine Protein Electrophoresis (UPEP):

    • Purpose: To identify and measure proteins in the urine.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To detect the presence of abnormal proteins that might be filtered through the kidneys, especially in the evaluation of multiple myeloma (Bence Jones proteins).

These tests, when ordered alongside a Serum Protein Electrophoresis test, provide a comprehensive assessment of protein abnormalities and their potential causes. They are crucial for diagnosing and monitoring conditions such as multiple myeloma, other gammopathies, liver disease, and chronic inflammatory diseases. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s clinical presentation, medical history, and initial SPEP results.

Conditions where a Protein Electrophoresis test is recommended:

A Protein Electrophoresis Serum test is used to diagnose and monitor various conditions, including:

  • Multiple Myeloma: A type of cancer that affects plasma cells in the bone marrow, leading to abnormal protein production.
  • Waldenström Macroglobulinemia: A rare type of lymphoma that involves the overproduction of a specific type of protein called IgM.
  • Liver and Kidney Disorders: Conditions affecting the liver or kidneys can lead to abnormal protein levels in the blood.
  • Inflammatory Disorders: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus can cause abnormal protein patterns.
  • Malnutrition: Low protein levels may indicate malnutrition.

How does my health care provider use a Protein Electrophoresis test?

When distinct protein groups are present in blood or other body fluids in unusually high or low numbers, protein electrophoresis is used to detect the presence of abnormal proteins, the absence of normal proteins, and the presence or absence of defective proteins.

The body uses proteins for a variety of functions, such as nutrient delivery, toxin elimination, metabolic regulation, and defense against foreign invaders.

Proteins are divided by protein electrophoresis according to their size and electrical charge. This represents the mix of proteins present in the bodily fluid under evaluation and creates a distinctive pattern of bands on a test medium that are varied widths and intensities. Five parts of the pattern are identified: albumin, alpha 1, alpha 2, beta, and gamma. The beta fraction may occasionally be further split into beta 1 and beta 2.

What do my Protein Electrophoresis test results mean?

A health professional can roughly determine the amount of each protein fraction and whether any aberrant proteins are present using protein electrophoresis assays. Immunofixation electrophoresis is useful for determining whether a specific kind of immunoglobulin is present. An explanation of the findings could be included in the lab report.

Most Common Questions About the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test:

Clinical Utility and Interpretation

What is the primary purpose of the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test?

The Protein Electrophoresis Serum test is used primarily to evaluate and identify proteins in the blood, helping to diagnose and monitor conditions such as multiple myeloma, Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, and other disorders of the immune system.

What can a Protein Electrophoresis Serum test reveal about one's health?

This test can provide information about the concentration and types of proteins in the blood serum, helping diagnose certain diseases, evaluate organ function, and assess nutritional status.

Clinical Applications and Diagnoses

How can Protein Electrophoresis Serum test results assist in differentiating between different conditions?

By evaluating the specific protein patterns and their proportions in the blood serum, healthcare providers can distinguish between various diseases. For instance, certain patterns might suggest multiple myeloma, while others might indicate liver or kidney disease.

Are abnormal Protein Electrophoresis Serum test results always indicative of a disease?

No, while abnormal results can be indicative of a disease or condition, they might also be seen in some normal situations or due to factors unrelated to disease, such as pregnancy or certain medications.

Comparative Insights

How does the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test compare with a total protein test?

The total protein test measures the combined amount of two major groups of proteins in the blood, albumin, and globulin. In contrast, the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test separates these proteins and provides a more detailed analysis of their individual concentrations, giving a more comprehensive overview of the protein profile.

Understanding Limitations and Challenges

Why might I need a follow-up test after a Protein Electrophoresis Serum test?

If an abnormal protein is identified, or if the protein levels are outside the normal range, further tests such as immunoelectrophoresis or immunofixation might be required to identify the specific protein and to determine its significance in a clinical context.

Additional Questions and Insights

Why are there peaks in the results of the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test?

The results of the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test are often represented as a graph with peaks. Each peak corresponds to a specific protein or group of proteins. The size and shape of the peaks can give insights into the concentration and type of proteins present in the serum.

Does a change in the Protein Electrophoresis Serum test results over time indicate disease progression or regression?

Changes in the protein profile can indicate the progression or regression of a disease, especially in conditions like multiple myeloma. However, it's essential to interpret these changes in the context of other clinical findings and tests.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: Protein Electrophoresis Serum, SPEP

Abnormal Protein Band 1

Abnormal Protein Band 2

Abnormal Protein Band 3

Albumin

Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.

Alpha-1-Globulins

Alpha-2-Globulins

BETA 1 GLOBULIN

BETA 2 GLOBULIN

Gamma Globulins

Interpretation

Protein, Total

The total protein is the total amount of two classes of proteins, albumin and globulin that are found in the fluid portion of your blood. Proteins are important parts of all cells and tissues. Your albumin helps prevent fluid from leaking out of blood vessels and your globulins are an important part of your immune system.
*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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