The liver produces a protein known as albumin. This protein plays an important role in moving many small molecules such as bilirubin, progesterone, calcium, and others into the bloodstream. Albumin also ensures that fluid from the blood does not leak out into the body's tissues. Since, albumin is manufactured by the liver; an abnormal level of albumin could point to liver damage or disease. It could also be a sign of kidney damage, because the kidneys keep check on large molecules such as proteins and ensure that they remain in the blood. Any protein that does escape into the urine is quickly re-absorbed by the body and used as a source of energy. The amount of albumin can be measured using either a urine test or a serum albumin test. In a serum albumin test the amount of albumin present in the clear liquid portion (i.e. serum) of the blood is measured. The normal range of albumin is 3.4 - 5.4 grams per deciliter (g/dL).
The serum albumin test is done to check for levels of albumin because a low level of albumin may point to liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, malabsorption such as in the case of Crohn's disease, malnutrition, and other problems. An elevated level could point to diabetic sclerosis, tropical spruce, Wilson's disease, and other ailments.
The doctor will advise you, if required, to discontinue certain drugs that could affect albumin levels. Some drugs such as anabolic steroids, androgens, growth hormone, and insulin can elevate albumin levels and give false test results. Be sure to inform your doctor about all your medications and medical conditions before going for the test.
The health care worker will tie an elastic band around the patient's forearm, near the elbow. This will cause the vein below the band to swell. The area is cleaned with antiseptic and a sterilized needle attached to a tube is then inserted into the vein and blood is collected. The blood sample is usually drawn from a vein or capillary. The band is removed and the needle is then gently removed from the vein. A small bandage is placed on the puncture site. The collected sample is then placed in a centrifuge so as to separate the blood cells from the serum. In an albumin serum test, the health care worker will measure the amount of albumin present in this serum, separated from the blood.