Bilirubin Test

1 What is a Bilirubin Test?

Bilirubin is the orange-yellow substance made during the normal breakdown of red blood cell or erythrocytes. A bilirubin test is simply a test that checks for the levels of this substance.

Bilirubin passes through the liver and is further  excreted from the body. Higher than normal levels of bilirubin may indicate different types of liver problems.

Occasionally, higher bilirubin levels may indicate an increased rate of destruction of red blood cells.

2 Reasons for Procedure

A bilirubin test is usually a part of a series of tests to check the condition of your liver. The reason for a bilirubin testing is to investigate jaundice.

Elevated levels of bilirubin can cause jaundice, which is the yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes. Determine whether there might be a blockage in your liver's bile ducts.

Help you keep track of the progression of other liver diseases like hepatitis. Help detect increased destruction of red blood cells. Help follow a treatment is working.

Help evaluate suspected drug toxicity. Some common test that might be done at the same time as bilirubin testing includes Liver function tests.  

A group of a blood test that measures certain enzymes or proteins in your blood. Albumin and total protein.

Levels of albumin and total protein show how efficient your liver is making proteins that your body needs to fight infections and perform other functions.

Complete blood count. This test measures several components and features of your blood. Prothrombin time. This measure the clotting time of plasma.

3 Potential Risks

There are not any known or potential risk to this test as long as it is carried out in the normal hospital setting.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Bilirubin test, are blood tests. They do not require any special preparation before the procedure. They can easily be scheduled and performed.

However, it is very important to tell your doctor about any foods or medications you have taken and your activity levels so that your results can be interpreted correctly.

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect during and after your bilirubin test.

During a bilirubin test. Bilirubin testing is a process done using a blood sample. Usually, the blood is drawn through a small needle and is inserted into a vein in the bend of your arm.

The needle is attached to a small tube, in which your blood is collected. You may feel a rapid sensation of pain as the needle is inserted in your arm and experience some short-term discomfort at the site after the needle is removed.

Blood for bilirubin testing in neonates is usually obtained using a sharp lance to break the skin of the heel (heel stick). Your blood will be further sent to a laboratory for analysis. You can usually return to your normal activities immediately.

6 Procedure Results

Bilirubin tests are always expressed as direct, indirect or total bilirubin. The total is a combination of both direct and indirect bilirubin. You usually get the results for direct and indirect bilirubin.

Normal results for a bilirubin test are 1.2 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL) of total bilirubin for adults, and usually 1mg/dL for those under 18. Normal results for direct bilirubin are generally 0.3 mg/dL.

These results may differ slightly depending on the laboratory in which the testing was conducted. Normal results may be slightly different for women and children and results may be affected by certain foods, medications or strenuous exercise.

Lower than normal bilirubin levels are actually not a concern. Elevated levels may be signs of liver damage or disease. Higher than normal levels of direct bilirubin in your blood may indicate your liver is not effectively clearing bilirubin.

Elevated levels of indirect bilirubin may indicate other problems. One common, and harmless, cause of elevated bilirubin is Gilbert's syndrome, a deficiency in an enzyme that helps break down bilirubin.

Your doctor may order further tests to investigate your condition. Bilirubin test results also may be used for the monitoring of the progression of certain conditions such as jaundice.