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Immunoelectrophoresis - blood

Serum immunoelectrophoresis is a lab test that measures proteins called immunoglobulins in the blood. Immunoglobulins are proteins that function as antibodies, which fight infection. There are many types of immunoglobulins. Some can be abnormal and may be due to cancer.

Immunoglobulins can also be measured in the urine.

How the Test is Performed

How to Prepare for the Test

There is no special preparation for this test.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or slight bruising. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is most often used to check the levels of antibodies when certain cancers and other disorders are present or suspected.

Normal Results

A normal (negative) result means that the blood sample had normal types of immunoglobulins. The level of one immunoglobulin was not higher than any other.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to:

Some people have monoclonal immunoglobulins, but do not have cancer. This is called monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance, or MGUS.

Risks

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Alternative Names

IEP - serum; Immunoglobulin electrophoresis - blood; Gamma globulin electrophoresis; Serum immunoglobulin electrophoresis; Amyloidosis - electrophoresis serum; Multiple myeloma - serum electrophoresis; Waldenström - serum electrophoresis

Images

References

Aoyagi K, Ashihara Y, Kasahara Y. Immunoassays and immunochemistry. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 44.

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Immunoelectrophoresis - serum and urine. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:673.

Review Date 5/20/2016

Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.