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Immunofixation - blood

Definition

Serum immunofixation is a lab test to identify proteins called immunoglobulins in blood. Too much of the same immunoglobulin is usually due to different types of blood cancer. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that help your body fight infection.

Alternative Names

Serum immunofixation

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

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 a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is most often used to check the levels of certain antibodies associated with multiple myeloma and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.Those antibodies include IgG, IgM, IgA, lambda light chain forms, and kappa light chain forms.

Immunofixation has also been used to study changes in protein structure (for example, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase), and in the genetic typing of alpha-1 antitrypsin.

Normal Results

A normal result means no monoclonal (meaning an excess of one specific type of) immunglobulins are seen in the blood sample.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result may be due to:

  • Amyloidosis
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
  • Other cancers

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.


Review Date: 5/29/2014
Reviewed By: 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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