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Prealbumin Blood Test

What is a prealbumin blood test?

A prealbumin blood test measures prealbumin levels in your blood. Prealbumin is a protein made in your liver. Prealbumin helps carry thyroid hormones and vitamin A through your bloodstream. It also helps regulate how your body uses energy.

If your prealbumin levels are lower than normal, it may be a sign of malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition where your body does not get the calories, vitamins, and/or minerals needed for good health.

Other names: thyroxine binding prealbumin, PA, transthyretin test, transthyretin

What is it used for?

A prealbumin test may be used to:

  • Find out if you are getting enough nutrients, especially protein, in your diet
  • Check to see if you are getting enough nutrition if you are in the hospital. Nutrition plays an important role in recovery and healing.
  • Help diagnose certain infections and chronic diseases

Why do I need a prealbumin blood test?

Your health care provider may order a prealbumin test to keep track of your nutrition if you are in the hospital. You may also need this test if you have symptoms of malnutrition. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Brittle hair
  • Bone and joint pain

Children with malnutrition may not grow and develop normally.

What happens during a prealbumin 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 a prealbumin test.

Are there any risks to the 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?

If your prealbumin levels are lower than normal, it may mean you are not getting enough nutrition in your diet. Low prealbumin levels may also be a sign of:

High prealbumin levels may be a sign of Hodgkin disease, kidney problems, or other disorders, but this test is not used to diagnose or monitor conditions related to high prealbumin. Other types of lab tests will be used to diagnose these disorders.

If your prealbumin levels are not normal, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a condition needing treatment. Certain medicines and even pregnancy can affect your results. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about a prealbumin blood test?

Some health care providers don't think a prealbumin test is the best way to diagnose malnutrition, because low prealbumin levels can be a sign of other medical conditions. But many providers find the test useful for monitoring nutrition, especially in people who are seriously ill or are in the hospital.

References

  1. Beck FK, Rosenthal TC. Prealbumin: A Marker for Nutritional Evaluation. Am Fam Physican [Internet]. 2002 Apr 15 [cited 2017 Nov 21]; 65(8):1575–1579. Available from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0415/p1575.html
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. Johns Hopkins Medicine; Health Library: Malnutrition [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/pediatrics/malnutrition_22,malnutrition
  3. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Malnutrition; [updated 2017 Oct 10; cited 2018 Feb 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/conditions/malnutrition
  4. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Prealbumin; [updated 2018 Jan 15; cited 2018 Feb 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/prealbumin
  5. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 1995-2017. Prealbumin (PAB), Serum: Clinical and Interpretive [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/9005
  6. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2017. Undernutrition [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/undernutrition/undernutrition
  7. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2017. Overview of Undernutrition [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/undernutrition/overview-of-undernutrition
  8. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: malnutrition [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=46014
  9. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests; [cited 2018 Feb 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  10. Quest Diagnostics [Internet]. Quest Diagnostics; c2000–2017. Test Center: Prealbumin [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.questdiagnostics.com/testcenter/BUOrderInfo.action?tc=4847&labCode=MET
  11. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Prealbumin (Blood) [cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=prealbumin
  12. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2017. Prealbumin Blood Test: Results [updated 2016 Oct 14; cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 7 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/prealbumin-blood-test/abo7852.html#abo7859
  13. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2017. Prealbumin Blood Test: Test Overview [updated 2016 Oct 14; cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/prealbumin-blood-test/abo7852.html
  14. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2017. Prealbumin Blood Test: Why It Is Done [updated 2016 Oct 14; cited 2017 Nov 21]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/prealbumin-blood%20test/abo7852.html#abo7854

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.