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An Overview of the SPEP Blood Test

written by: Harry Sylvester•edited by: Diana Cooper•updated: 10/30/2010

The SPEP blood test refers to a medical test that evaluates the amounts of albumin and globulins in the blood to determine diseases. Learn more about this test along with its explanations.

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    What is the SPEP Blood Test?

    The serum protein electrophoresis test, abbreviated as the SPEP blood test, is a blood test that evaluates the amounts of albumin and globulins to recognize some conditions and diseases. Due to carrying electrical charges, protein can move in fluid if positioned in an electrical field. Therefore, an electrical field is used to split the proteins in the blood into different categories:

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    Albumin. The liver produces albumin. It is an essential protein for healing and tissue growth, as this protein transports nutrition and other chemicals through the bloodstream. This protein also prevents the blood from leaking out of blood vessels.

    Alpha-1 globulin. This protein is referred to as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or you might recognize it as the good cholesterol. It is a type of cholesterol you need most to prevent you from heart disease.

    Alpha-2 globulin. This is an important protein that attaches to hemoglobin to carry oxygen in your body. Alpha-2 globulin is called haptoglobin.

    Beta globulin. This is a type of protein that combats infection by transporting nutrients like iron through the bloodstream.

    Gamma globulin. Known as antibodies, gamma globulin allows your body to eliminate bacteria and viruses.

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    Why it is Ordered

    The doctor may recommend taking this test when the doctor analyzes symptoms suggesting multiple myeloma (a cancer that begins in plasma cells), amyloidosis (a disease in which an abnormal protein, amyloid, accumulates in tissues or organs), and macroglobulinemia (a plasma cell cancer). Several conditions and diseases might alter the normal amounts of the protein groups. Likewise, this blood test is very effective in finding out why a person has hypogammaglobulinemia (HGG). HGG refers to a condition when low levels of gamma globulin occur, allowing you to become more vulnerable to suffer from infections.

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    How it is Done

    Like other blood tests, a health professional inserts a needle into a vein in the arm to collect a blood sample. Before doing this, he or she must clean the needle site with alcohol. Once the needle is removed, he or she presses a piece of cotton on the needle site to stop the bleeding.

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    What the Results Mean

    The SPEP blood test provides a rough estimation of the amount of each protein present in the blood. Despite the different results from lab to lab, the results would indicate high values or low values in proteins once you have any problems with the proteins in your blood.

    High values might indicate diseases such as multiple myeloma, renal disease, liver disease, iron deficiency anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and dehydration.

    However, low values may identify conditions such as malnutrition, heart disease, severe liver disease, renal disease, pregnancy, severe dieting or starvation, and inflammatory conditions.

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    References

    WebMD.com: Serum Protein Electrophoresis - http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/serum-protein-electrophoresis-spe

    Labtestsonline.org: Protein Electrophoresis Immunofixation Electrophoresis - http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/electrophoresis/glance.html

    Drugs.com: Serum Protein Electrophoresis - http://www.drugs.com/cg/serum-protein-electrophoresis.html