Albumin: definition, application and meaning

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Albumin is the most abundant protein found in blood plasma. It helps ensure that blood stays in the arteries and veins, and it also helps transport hormones, vitamins, and enzymes throughout the body. This substance is made in the liver and quickly enters the bloodstream.

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Low levels of albumin in the blood indicate serious liver and kidney problems, while elevated levels, known as hyperalbuminemia, can be a sign of dehydration, diarrhea, or other conditions. Health professionals often measure albumin levels when diagnosing or treating diseases.

In emergency medicine, albumin is used for fluid resuscitation, a procedure that replenishes body fluids in cases of heavy bleeding, sweating, or other problems.

Albumin in the body

Proteins are one of the most important substances in the body and are directly involved in many body processes. Among them, albumin plays several important and important roles in various processes and systems of the body:

  • Blood plasma : Due to its larger molecular size, albumin can attract water and other molecules, which helps to ensure adequate blood pressure in the veins.
  • Ligand delivery : Ligands are molecules produced in the body that are necessary for cells and chemicals involved in the functioning of body systems.
  • Drug Delivery : This molecule also carries certain drugs, which are considered "exogenous" or external ligands, through the bloodstream. These include methadone , propranolol , thiopental, furosemide, warfarin , methotrexate , and many others.

Abnormal albumin levels

Given the many important functions that albumin plays in the body, abnormal levels of this protein can not only cause health problems, but can also be signs of other problems. However, in other, rarer cases, healthy people will have abnormal levels.

What can an abnormal albumin level mean? Here's a quick breakdown :

  • Kidney problems : Impaired kidney function, especially chronic kidney disease (CKD) , produces lower than normal levels. Kidney disease can also cause the release of albumin in the urine, which is known as microalbuminuria .
  • Liver diseases : Lower levels of albumin are also seen in cases of liver disease such as hepatitis (inflammation of the liver, often due to a viral infection) and cirrhosis (scarring of liver tissue due to chronic hepatitis or excessive alcohol consumption), jaundice (yellowing of the liver). of the eyes). and skin) and etc.
  • Crohn's Disease: Persistent and destructive inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, Crohn's disease leads to difficulties in the absorption of nutrients. In these cases, the albumin level is below normal.
  • Celiac disease : A decrease in levels is also seen in cases of this autoimmune disease, in which foods with gluten, such as wheat, barley or rye, damage the white blood cells in the lining of the small intestine.
  • Thyroid disease : Many diseases can affect the thyroid gland, which can cause problems with the immune system. These problems lead to a decrease in albumin levels.
  • Whipple's disease : This rare bacterial infection affects the joints and digestive system, interfering with the body's ability to digest food. In these cases, the albumin level will be below normal.
  • Malnutrition : a decrease in albumin levels in the blood can also be a sign of malnutrition.
  • Dehydration – Lack of water in the body leads to increased levels of albumin.
  • Weight loss surgery : After weight loss surgery, which reduces the body's ability to absorb nutrients, albumin levels may increase.
  • High protein diet: Those whose diet is very high have lower levels of albumin.
  • Medications and treatments : Certain medications, including insulin, hormones, or steroids, increase levels; while others, such as birth control pills, will reduce them .

Albumin blood test (ALB)

A blood test for albumin is generally recommended if liver or kidney dysfunction is suspected. It is also part of a routine blood sugar and digestive health test called the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) , which is often part of an annual medical check-up .

During the exam

For the test, blood is drawn from a vein in a person's arm. It is safe and well tolerated only when the needle pierces the skin, the injection goes well. With the exception of some possible bruising, there is no risk in collecting specimens safely. Obtaining results usually takes some time, as the blood may need to be sent to a separate center for testing.

interpretation of results

The normal range for albumin in the blood is 3.4 to 5.4 grams per deciliter (g / dL), although there may be some variation depending on the laboratory. If your results are outside of this range, your healthcare provider will know that you may have liver, kidney, or other digestive problems.

Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that you have health problems; As noted, certain medications can increase or decrease these levels. Following the abnormal results, as well as evidence from other tests, the healthcare provider may consider the next steps in diagnosis or treatment.

This may mean additional imaging studies and diagnostic tests if kidney, intestinal, or liver problems are suspected, dietary and nutritional tests, and, if necessary, pharmaceutical or surgical treatment. When you receive your ALB test results, don't hesitate to ask your doctor to explain what they mean.

Liquid resuscitation

Another important use for albumin is fluid resuscitation, a procedure that replaces blood or other body fluids in an emergency. In this procedure, controlled amounts of albumin solution are given directly to the body through an intravenous (IV) line.

While there is some controversy about the clinical efficacy of this approach over others, the protein's ability to improve intravenous pressure, as well as its shorter half-life, makes it worth considering.

What conditions are accepted for fluid resuscitation? Here's a quick breakdown :

  • Hypovolemic shock : Resuscitation is most often used in hypovolemic shock when the body loses 20% or more of its blood volume. Therefore, this approach is part of the treatment of puncture wounds or other injuries.
  • Sepsis – This is a very dangerous condition – a systemic inflammation caused by the immune response. This leads to a number of symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, heart palpitations, and confusion. If left untreated, this condition can damage various organ systems.
  • Liver transplantation: Fluid resuscitation with albumin is often necessary during liver transplantation as well.
  • Liver problems : If a patient has liver problems such as cirrhosis or hepatitis and needs fluid resuscitation, albumin solution is considered an important option.

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Albumin is an important part of the body. It is also an important medical tool, both as a health indicator and as a treatment. When you see the results of the albumin test in your medical record, ask your doctor if you have any questions about its importance.

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