Serum protein electrophoresis, SPE
Protein electrophoresis is a test that measures specific proteins in the blood. The test separates proteins in the blood based on their electrical charge. The protein electrophoresis test is often used to find abnormal substances called M proteins. Protein electrophoresis also tests for other proteins and immunoglobulins. The presence of M proteins can be a sign of a type of cancer called myeloma, or multiple myeloma. Myeloma affects white blood cells called plasma cells in the bone marrow.
The protein electrophoresis test is also used to diagnose other conditions affecting the plasma cells. These include Waldenström macroglobulinemia; monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS; and primary amyloidosis.
Protein electrophoresis can also be used to help diagnose:
Poor nutrition or inability to absorb nutrients
Certain autoimmune diseases
Your doctor may recommend this test if he or she suspects that you have a condition affecting your plasma cells. These conditions may cause the following symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
Frequent illness or fevers
Bones that fracture easily
High levels of calcium in the blood
Your doctor may also order:
Urine protein electrophoresis
Bone marrow biopsy Immunotyping (to determine what type of M proteins are present)
Complete blood count
Blood calcium test
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.
Serum proteins can be albumin or globulins. Globulins are divided into alpha-1, alpha-2, beta, and gamma globulins.
Normal levels are:
60 to 75 percent or 3.6 to 5.2 grams per deciliter (g/dL) (36-52 grams per liter -g/L)
1.7 to 5 percent or 0.1 to 0.4 g/dL (1 to 4 g/L)
6.7 to 12.5 percent or 0.4 to 1 g/dL (4 to 10 g/L)
8.3 to 16.3 percent or 0.5 to 1.2 g/dL (5 to 12 g/L)
10.7 to 20 percent or 0.6 to 1.6 g/dL (6 to 16 g/L)
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.
The risks are very minor. The needle may feel uncomfortable or painful. You may experience bruising, soreness, or pain in your arm at the puncture spot. These symptoms usually go away soon after the test is over.
Your diet or lifestyle habits are not likely to affect the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter and prescription medications. Also mention any vitamins, herbs, or supplements that you take.
You probably don't need to take special precautions before having this test. Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop eating or drinking for a period of time before the test. Your doctor will also tell you if you need to skip any of your regular medications on the day of the test.