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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.

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 the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

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's macroglobulinemia.

This test has mostly been replaced by another test calle immunofixation.

Normal Values

A normal (negative) result means no immunoglobulins were seen in the blood sample.

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.

What the risks are

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

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

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: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 46.

Perry MC. Plasma cell disorders. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap193.

Updated: 6/5/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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