At a glance

Also known as


Why get tested?

To screen for certain liver and kidney disorders as well as other diseases

When to get tested?

If your doctor thinks that you have symptoms of a liver or kidney disorder

Sample required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm

What is being tested?

The total protein test is a rough measure of all of the proteins in the plasma portion of your blood. Proteins are important building blocks of all cells and tissues; they are important for body growth and health. Total protein measures the combined amount of two types of proteins, albumin and globulin. Albumin moves many small molecules through the blood but its main purpose is to keep fluid from leaking out of blood vessels, while globulin proteins include enzymes, antibodies and more than 500 other proteins.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is collected by needle from a vein.

The Test

How is it used?

Total protein measurements can reflect someone's nutritional status, kidney disease, liver disease, as well as many other conditions. If total protein is abnormal, further tests are needed to identify which protein fraction is abnormal, so that a specific diagnosis can be made.

When is it requested?

Total protein is measured along with several other tests to provide information if you have symptoms that suggest a liver or kidney disorder, or to investigate the cause of abnormal pooling of fluid in tissue (oedema).

What does the test result mean?

Low total protein levels can suggest a liver disorder (the liver is an important producer of many plasma proteins), a kidney disorder (proteins may be lost from the circulation into the urine due to a kidney disorder) or a disorder in which protein is not digested or absorbed properly. More specific tests, such as albumin and liver enzyme tests must be performed to make an accurate diagnosis. Mildly higher total protein levels can be due to dehydration or infection and inflammation and high total protein levels may be due to some types of blood cancer that lead to an accumulation of an abnormal protein (such as multiple myeloma).

About Reference or “Normal” Ranges

Is there anything else I should know?

Prolonged application of a tourniquet or standing during blood collection can increase total protein levels. Drugs that can increase protein levels include anabolic steroids, androgens, growth hormone, insulin and progesterone. Drugs that can decrease protein levels include oestrogens and oral contraceptives.

Common Questions

Can I test for protein levels at home?

No, there is no home test available.

Last Review Date: July 11, 2016