A total serum protein test measures the total amount of
protein in the blood. It also measures the amounts of
two major groups of proteins in the blood: albumin and globulin.
Albumin is made mainly
in the liver. It helps keep the blood from leaking out of blood vessels.
Albumin also helps carry some medicines and other substances through the blood
and is important for tissue growth and healing.
Globulin is made up of different proteins called alpha, beta,
and gamma types. Some globulins are made by the liver, while others are made by
immune system. Certain globulins bind with
hemoglobin. Other globulins transport metals, such as
iron, in the blood and help fight infection. Serum globulin can be separated
into several subgroups by serum protein electrophoresis. To learn more,
see the topic
Serum Protein Electrophoresis.
A test for total serum protein reports separate values for total
protein, albumin, and globulin. Some types of globulin (such as alpha-1 globulin) also may be measured.
Why It Is Done
Albumin is tested to:
Check how well the liver and kidneys are
Find out if your diet contains enough
Help determine the cause of swelling of the ankles (edema) or abdomen (ascites) or of
fluid collection in the lungs that may cause shortness of breath (pulmonary edema).
Globulin is tested to:
Determine your chances of developing an
No special preparation is required before having a total serum
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have
regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the
results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
Clean the needle site with
Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
Put pressure on the site and then put on a
How It Feels
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band
is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at
all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample
taken from a vein.
You may get a small bruise at the site. You can
lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several
In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood
sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used
several times a day to treat this.
Ongoing bleeding can be a
problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and
other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have
bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell
your doctor before your blood sample is taken.
A total serum protein test is a blood test that measures the
amounts of total
protein, albumin, and globulin in the blood. Results
are usually available within 12 hours.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may
not be helpful include:
Taking medicines, such as
estrogens, male sex
androgens), growth hormone, or
Prolonged bed rest, such as during a hospital
A long-term (chronic) illness, especially if the disease
interferes with what you are able to eat or drink.
What To Think About
If you have abnormal globulin levels, another
test called serum protein electrophoresis is often done. This test measures
specific groups of proteins in the blood. To learn more, see the topic
Serum Protein Electrophoresis.
liver cells lose their ability to make protein. But previously produced protein
may stay in the blood for 12 to 18 days, so it takes about 2 weeks for damage
to the liver to show up as decreased serum protein levels. The liver's ability
to make protein may be used to predict the course of certain liver
carbohydrates and fats, proteins are not stored in the
body. They are continuously broken down (metabolized) into
amino acids that can be used to make new proteins,
enzymes, and other compounds needed by the
Protein also can be measured in the urine. To learn more, see the topic
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerJerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.