Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) is a laboratory test to measure the amount of AAT in your blood. The test is also done to check for abnormal forms of AAT.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed.
How to Prepare for the Test
There is no special preparation.
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 a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is helpful in identifying a rare form of emphysema in adults and a rare form of liver disease (cirrhosis) in children and adults caused by an AAT deficiency. AAT deficiency is passed down through families. The condition causes the liver to make too little of AAT, a protein that protects the lungs and liver from damage.
Everyone has two copies of the gene that makes AAT. People with two abnormal copies of the gene have more severe disease and lower blood levels.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A lower-than-normal level of AAT may be associated with:
- Damage of the large airways in the lungs (bronchiectasis)
- Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Liver tumors
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes due to blocked bile flow (obstructive jaundice)
- High blood pressure in the large vein that leads to the liver (portal hypertension)
There is 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:
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Multiple punctures to locate veins
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk anytime the skin is broken)
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Alpha1-antitrypsin - serum. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:121-122.
Winnie GB, Boas SR. a1 - Antitrypsin deficiency and emphysema. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 421.
Review Date 7/31/2022
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.