Does this test have other names?
What is this test?
This is a test to measure how much erythropoietin (EPO) you have in your blood. EPO
is a hormone that your kidney makes to trigger your bone marrow to make red blood
cells. A normal EPO level means that your body can make healthy red blood cells.
Healthy oxygen levels are linked to having enough red blood cells. For this reason,
EPO levels usually rise when your body isn't getting enough oxygen.
Why do I need this test?
You might have this test if other tests have shown that you have anemia and your healthcare
provider wants to figure out what kind of anemia you have. He or she might also order
this test to help find out whether your kidneys are making a normal amount of EPO. A
level of EPO that’s higher than normal may mean you have a kidney tumor.
If you are a professional cyclist, long-distance runner, or other professional athlete,
you may be asked to take this test. It's sometimes used to find out whether athletes
have been violating anti-doping laws. EPO is used illegally by some athletes to improve
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Because EPO plays a key role in the making of red blood cells, your healthcare provider may
order other blood tests. These include a complete blood count, or CBC. Your provider
may also order other tests for anemia. These could include tests for iron levels,
total iron binding capacity level, ferritin levels, and reticulocyte counts.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results, including 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 healthcare
The normal range for EPO levels can vary from is 3.7 to 36 international units per
liter (IU/L). Higher-than-normal levels may mean you have anemia. In severe cases
of anemia, EPO levels in the blood may be a thousand times higher than normal.
Unusually low levels may be because of polycythemia vera. This is a bone marrow disorder
that causes your body to make too many red blood cells. Low EPO levels may also mean
you have kidney disease.
How is this test done?
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your
Does this test pose any risks?
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection,
bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight
stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
What might affect my test results?
Ask your your healthcare provider about what might affect your results. Donating blood
can raise the EPO level in your blood. Pregnancy and certain medicines can also affect
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test. But make sure your healthcare provider knows
about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes
medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.