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Protein Electrophoresis Test is also called,

  • Serum protein electrophoresis
  • SPE 
  • Protein ELP
  • Gel Electrophoresis
  • Capillary Electrophoresis
  • Immunosubtraction Electrophoresis
  • Urine Protein Electrophoresis, UPE, UPEP
  • IFE
  • CSF Protein Electrophoresis Electrophoresis


What is the Protein Electrophoresis Test?


Protein Electrophoresis Test is used to measure the specific proteins in the blood. This test is done in a way that separates the proteins in the blood based on their electric charge. There are abnormal substances called M proteins present in the blood. The presence of M proteins is a sign of various types of cancer like myeloma or multiple myeloma.


The Protein Electrophoresis Test is also used to diagnose the conditions affecting plasma cells and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These conditions include primary amyloidosis and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).


What is the test used for?


This test is more significantly used to help diagnose:


  • Thyroid problems
  • Liver disease
  • Inability to absorb nutrients
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Liver diseases


Why and when do you need the Protein Electrophoresis Test?


Protein electrophoresis is a test used when you have signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma, like:


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Frequent bacterial infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Weakened bones resulting in fracture, bone pain, and lesion
  • Hyperviscosity syndrome leads to headaches, vision problems, seizures, and coma.
  • Kidney diseases, i.e., a large amount of protein excreted from urine, permanently damage the kidneys.


Urine protein electrophoresis is done when you have abnormally high protein levels in urine.


Immunofixation electrophoresis is done when an abnormal band of a monoclonal immunoglobulin is detected on serum or urine electrophoresis.


CSF protein electrophoresis is done when you have signs and symptoms suggesting multiple sclerosis, including:


  • Sensory symptoms, i.e., Numbness, tingling sensation, pain, itching, burning, and facial pain
  • Motor symptoms include weakness, tremors, difficulty walking, constipation, urine incontinence, and lack of coordination.
  • Psychological symptoms such as depression, problems with learning, memorizing and thinking, stress, and mood swings.
  • Fatigue and weight loss


Once this test has confirmed the disease, the electrophoresis is done at regular intervals to track the effectiveness of treatment and recurrence.


What kind of sample is required for the test?


A blood sample is drawn from one of the veins in your arm or back of your hand. A tourniquet is tied above the puncture site. A vein is palpated, and a needle is inserted. The required amount of sample is drawn and secured safely in the blood vial, where the lab manager can send it to the lab to run the test.


Do you need to prepare for the test?


Your doctor may ask you not to eat anything 10 – 12 hrs before running the test. Many medications can alter the protein function and hence the test results. Tell your doctor about the medication or multivitamins you are taking. Do not stop the medication or alter any dose without talking to your doctor first.


Are there any risks to this test?


A little risk is only involved while drawing your blood sample. Drawing blood samples from some people may be more difficult than others depending on the size of their arteries and veins. Besides, some people have a needle phobia and should consult the laboratory manager before giving blood samples.


Other risks associated with drawing blood samples may include:


  • Fainting
  • Multiple punctures
  • Excessive bleeding in case of bleeding disorder
  • Hematoma
  • Infection; in case the skin barrier is broken.


What do the test results mean?


The protein electrophoresis test gives your doctor a rough estimate of how much each respective protein fractions are present in your body. It also shows if there are any abnormal protein or protein patterns present.


Results are interpreted after correlating clinically. The normal value ranges are as below;


  • Total protein: 6.4 – 8.3 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 64 – 83 grams per liter (g/L)
  • Albumin: 3.5 – 5.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 35 – 50 grams per liter (g/L)
  • Alpha-1 globulin: 0.1 – 0.3 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 1.0 – 3.0 grams per liter (g/L)
  • Alpha-2 globulin: 0.6 – 1.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 6.0 – 10 grams per liter (g/L)
  • Beta globulin: 0.7 – 1.2 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 7.0 – 12 grams per liter (g/L)
  • Gamma globulin: 0.7 – 1.6 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 7 – 16 grams per liter (g/L)


The average value range can slightly vary among different laboratories. Some laboratories use different measurements and reagents to run the tests. Talk to your laboratory manager about the test results and understand the normal value range.


Other than the normal range, there are ranges that show abnormality, like:


Decreased total protein indicates:


  • Protein-losing enteropathy. It means the inability of the digestive tract to absorb protein.
  • Malnutrition
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Liver cirrhosis


Increased alpha-1 globulin proteins may indicate:


  • Cancer
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases like SLE, Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Acute inflammatory disease.


Decreased alpha-1 globulin protein can be a sign of:


  • Alpha-1 trypsin deficiency


Increased Alpha-2 globulin protein may indicate:


  • Acute and Chronic inflammation


Decreased Alpha-2 globulin protein may be a sign of:


  • Hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells)


Increased beta globulin indicates:


  • Familial hypercholesterolemia; is a disorder in which the body doesn’t break down fats properly.
  • Estrogen therapy.


Decreased beta globulin may show:


  • Malnutrition
  • Abnormally low levels of LDL


Increased gamma globulin protein indicates:


  • Blood cancer like myeloma, lymphomas, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Acute inflammation
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis


You should always consult the test reports with your consultant because the normal value range may slightly differ for different laboratories. You should not assume the final diagnosis yourself, even if you know what test results mean.


Related Tests:


  • Immunofixation test
  • Total immunoglobulins
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin



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