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Immunoelectrophoresis - blood

Serum immunoelectrophoresis is a lab test that measures proteins called immunoglobulins in the blood. There are many types of immunoglobulins. Some can be abnormal and due to cancer.

Immunoglobulins can also be measured in the urine .

Alternative Names

IEP - serum; Immunoglobulin electrophoresis - blood; Gamma globulin electrophoresis; Serum immunoglobulin electrophoresis

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

How to Prepare for the Test

There is no special preparation for this test.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or slight bruising. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is most often used to check the levels of certain immunoglobulins (or antibodies) associated with multiple myeloma and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.

This test has mostly been replaced by another test called immunofixation.

Normal Results

A normal (negative) result means that a normal variety of immunoglobulins were seen in the blood sample. The level of one immunoglobulin was not higher than any other.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to certain types of cancer such as multiple myeloma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia .

Abnormal results may also be due to:

  • Amyloidosis
  • Lymphoma

Some people have monoclonal immunoglobulins, but do not have cancer. This is called monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance, or MGUS.

Risks

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

McPherson RA, Massey HD. Laboratory evaluation of immunoglobulin function and humoral immunity. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 46.

Updated: 5/29/2014

Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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