Total Bilirubin (Blood)
Does this test have other names?
Total serum bilirubin, TSB
What is this test?
This is a blood test that measures the amount of a substance called bilirubin. This
test is used to find out how well your liver is working. It is often given as part
of a panel of tests that measure liver function. A small amount of bilirubin in your
blood is normal, but a high level may be a sign of liver disease.
The liver makes bile to help you digest food, and bile contains bilirubin. Most bilirubin
comes from the body's normal process of breaking down old red blood cells. A healthy
liver can normally get rid of bilirubin. But when you have liver problems, it can
build up in your body to unhealthy levels.
Why do I need this test?
You may have this test if you have symptoms of liver damage or disease. Symptoms include:
You may also have your bilirubin level tested regularly if you are being treated for
Many healthy newborns also develop jaundice. Most jaundice in infants causes no problems,
but babies are often tested shortly after birth because a high bilirubin level may
lead to deafness, retardation, and brain damage.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
You may have other blood tests to find the cause of your liver problems. You may also
have urine tests, an ultrasound or other imaging scans of your abdomen, or a liver
For newborns, healthcare providers often order a urine test in addition to the bilirubin
What do my test results mean?
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 healthcare
Bilirubin results depend on your age, gender, and health. Adults with jaundice generally
have bilirubin levels greater than 2.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In an otherwise
healthy newborn, bilirubin levels greater than 20 to 25 mg/dL may cause problems.
How is the test is 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 small risks that include bleeding, infection,
bruising, and dizziness. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight pain
or sting. Afterward, the site may be sore.
What might affect my test results?
Medicines and herbal supplements can increase your bilirubin level. Pregnancy and
drinking alcohol can also cause a buildup of bilirubin in your liver.
How do I get ready for this test?
You may not be allowed to eat or drink right before the test. Ask your healthcare
provider how else you should prepare for this test. Be sure your 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.