What is an immunofixation (IFE) blood test?
An immunofixation blood test, also known as protein electrophoresis, measures certain proteins in the blood. Proteins play many important roles, including providing energy for the body, rebuilding muscles, and supporting the immune system.
There are two main types of proteins in the blood: albumin and globulin. The test separates these proteins into subgroups based on their size and electrical charge. The subgroups are:
- Alpha-1 globulin
- Alpha-2 globulin
- Beta globulin
- Gamma globulin
Measuring the proteins in each subgroup can help diagnose a variety of diseases.
serum protein electrophoresis, (SPEP), protein electrophoresis, SPE, immunofixation electrophoresis, IFE, serum immunofixation
What is it used for?
This test is most often used to help diagnose or monitor a variety of different conditions. These include:
- Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells
- Other forms of cancer, such as lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) or leukemia (cancer of blood-forming tissues, such as bone marrow)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Certain neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases causes your immune system to attack your own cells, tissues, and/or organs by mistake.
- Malnutrition or malabsorption, conditions in which your body is not getting enough nutrients from the foods you eat
Why do I need an IFE test?
You may need testing if you have symptoms of certain diseases, such as multiple myeloma, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition, or malabsorption.
Symptoms of multiple myeloma include:
- Bone pain
- Anemia (low level of red blood cells)
- Frequent infections
- Excessive thirst
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Numbness or tingling in the face, arms and/or legs
- Trouble walking
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Problems controlling urination
Symptoms of malnutrition or malabsorption include:
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bone and joint pain
What happens during an IFE test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparations for an immunofixation blood test.
Are there any risks to an IFE test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruise at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.