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Protein Electrophoresis by Immunofixation Blood Test

What is an immunofixation blood test?

An immunofixation (IFE) blood test measures the number and type of proteins in your blood. Proteins have many important functions, including giving your body energy, rebuilding muscles, and helping your immune system. There are different types of proteins, and each one has a different job for your body. This test checks to see if your body is making or losing too much of certain proteins. Your body might make too much or too little protein if you have certain health conditions.

There are two main types of proteins in the blood: albumin and globulin. Albumin makes up most of the protein in the blood, while the rest are called globulin.

The immunofixation blood test uses a process called electrophoresis to separate the proteins into subgroups. The subgroups are based on their size, shape, and electrical charge. Measuring the number of proteins in each subgroup can help check for different health conditions.

The protein subgroups are:

  • Albumin
  • Alpha-1 globulin
  • Alpha-2 globulin
  • Beta globulin
  • Gamma globulin

Other names: serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP), protein electrophoresis, SPE, immunofixation electrophoresis, IFE, serum immunofixation

What is it used for?

This test is most often used to help check for or monitor many different conditions that affect the amount of protein in the body. Some of these health conditions might be hard to find without having an immunofixation blood test.

These conditions include:

Why do I need an immunofixation blood test?

You may need testing if you have symptoms of health conditions that affect the amount of protein in the body, such as multiple myeloma, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition, or malabsorption. Your health care provider may also order an immunofixation blood test if you have other blood tests that are not normal, such as your albumin level, total protein, high calcium levels, or low white or red blood cell counts.

Symptoms of multiple myeloma may include:

  • Weakened bones, which can lead to
    • Bone pain, especially in the back or ribs
    • Bone lesions
    • Easily broken bones (fractures)
  • Fatigue.
  • Anemia (low level of red blood cells).
  • Fever for no known reason or frequent infections.
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • High levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia). It can affect many organs in the body. The symptoms it causes may depend on which organs are affected.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may include:

Symptoms of malnutrition or malabsorption may include:

  • Weight loss, especially the loss of fat and muscle
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent infections

What happens during an immunofixation blood test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparations for an immunofixation blood test.

Are there any risks to an immunofixation blood test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

Your results will show that your protein levels are in the normal range, or if certain proteins were too high or too low. Many conditions can cause certain protein levels to be high or low. Common causes may include:

Protein subgroups High protein levels Low protein levels
Albumin Dehydration
Malnutrition and malabsorption, liver disease, kidney disease, protein-losing enteropathy, severe burns, inflammatory conditions
Alpha-1 Inflammatory diseases, pregnancy Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, liver disease
Apha-2 Inflammatory diseases, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, use of medicines such as birth control or steroids Malnutrition, breakdown of red blood cells, liver disease
Beta High cholesterol, iron-deficiency anemia, lymphoma Malnutrition, autoimmune disorders
Gamma Multiple myeloma, MGUS Many different genetic immune disorders

An immunofixation test can also be used to monitor a known condition that affects your protein levels to see if the condition is getting worse or if treatment is helping.

To understand the results of an immunofixation blood test, your provider will consider your symptoms, age, medical history, and the results of other tests.

If you have questions about your results, talk to your provider.

Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.

Is there anything else I need to know about an immunofixation blood test?

Other things can affect your results, such as some vaccines (if you got them in the past six months) and certain medicines.

Immunofixation tests can also be done in urine. Urine immunofixation tests are often done if immunofixation blood test results were not normal.


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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.