Human Serum Albumin: Definition, Test & Normal Levels

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

Testing for levels of human serum albumin can help healthcare providers identify certain kidney or liver problems. In the lesson ahead we will look at what albumin is along with how the testing works and provides insight into a patient's concern.

Definition

Meet Bob. Bob has noticed that he has been losing weight and is nervous that something may be going wrong. He goes to his doctor who puts in an order for a serum albumin test to see if Bob has one of a number of different conditions.

During Bob's interaction with his doctor and a review of his chart it comes up that Bob recently started taking an anti-depressant, and feels that that medication is helpful. Bob's doctor suspects everything is fine, but orders the test anyway to rule out a kidney or liver problem.

Bob's liver produces albumin, a very abundant plasma protein molecule. The purpose of albumin is to keep blood from leaking into surrounding body tissues. It also helps move other substances present in the blood stream such as bilirubin, calcium, progesterone, and any prescription or nonprescription medications taken.

A human serum albumin test measures how much albumin there is in the clear liquid portion of Bob's blood. The word 'serum' refers to this liquid portion of the blood.

Testing and Possible Diagnoses

A technician or nurse will draw a small sample of Bob's blood with a needle and send it to a lab for analysis. The normal range for albumin in the blood is about 3.4 to 5.4 grams per hundred cubic centimeters or deciliter (g/dL).

Low levels of albumin can indicate kidney or liver disease. Low albumin levels can occur in Celiac, Whipple, and Crohn's disease. Weight loss surgery, low protein diets, and other scenarios where the body either can't absorb or doesn't take in enough nutrients can correlate with low human serum albumin. On the other hand, a high level of albumin can be a sign of dehydration or a high protein diet.

There may be a need for communication between the patient and doctor or other healthcare team members. In certain cases a doctor will need to have a patient discontinue certain medications to get an accurate test result. These include anabolic steroids, androgens, growth hormone, and insulin. Fortunately Bob has a good rapport with his health care team and isn't afraid of doctors, nor is he taking anything that might interfere with the test results.

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