Protein Electrophoresis (Blood)
Does this test have other names?
Serum protein electrophoresis, SPEP
What is this test?
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.
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.
Protein electrophoresis also tests for other proteins and antibodies (immunoglobulins).
The protein electrophoresis test is also used to diagnose other conditions affecting
the plasma cells. These include Waldenström macroglobulinemia, monoclonal gammopathy
of undetermined significance (MGUS), and primary amyloidosis.
Protein electrophoresis can also be used to help diagnose:
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if your healthcare provider believes that you have a condition
affecting your plasma cells. These conditions may cause the following symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
Severe tiredness (fatigue)
Frequent illness or fevers
Bones that fracture easily
High levels of calcium in the blood
What other tests might I have along with this test?
You may also need:
Urine protein electrophoresis
Bone marrow biopsy
Immunotyping, to find what type of M proteins are present
Complete blood count
Blood calcium and electrolyte test
Kidney and liver blood tests
What do my test results mean?
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, and other things.
Your test results may be different depending on the lab used. They may not mean you
have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
Serum proteins can be albumin or globulins. Globulins are divided into alpha-1, alpha-2,
beta, and gamma globulins.
Normal levels are:
3.8 to 5 grams per deciliter (g/dL)
0.1 to 0.3 g/dL
0.6 to 1 g/dL
0.7 to 1.4 g/dL
0.7 to 1.6 g/dL
How is this test done?
The test is done with a blood sample. A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in
your arm or hand.
Does this test pose any risks?
Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection,
bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may
feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore.
What might affect my test results?
Your diet or lifestyle habits are not likely to affect the results of this test.
How do I get ready for this test?
You likely don't need to take special precautions before having this test. Your healthcare
provider will tell you if you need to stop eating or drinking for a period of time
before the test. Your provider will also tell you if you need to skip any of your
regular medicines on the day of the test. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider
about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes
medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.