Bilirubin Test

Bilirubin Test- Why am I having this test?

Bilirubin test is used to evaluate liver function. A health care provider may recommend this test:

  • If you have hemolytic anemia.
  • For a newborn who has jaundice.

What is being tested?

This test measures the level of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells are broken down. Normally, bilirubin is broken down in the liver and excreted as a component of bile. However, when red blood cells are broken down more quickly than usual, or when there is a dysfunction in how bile is excreted, bilirubin levels can become raised (elevated). In newborns with jaundice, elevated bilirubin levels may put the child at risk for brain damage.

What kind of sample is taken?

This test can be performed using one of the following methods:

  • Blood sample. This is usually collected by inserting a needle into a blood vessel.
  • Urine sample. This is collected using a germ-free (sterile) container that is given to you by the lab.

How do I prepare for this test?

Fasting requirements for this test may vary among different labs. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything except water after midnight on the night before the test.

How are the results reported?

Your test results will be reported as values. Your health care provider will compare your results to normal ranges that were established after testing a large group of people (reference ranges). Reference ranges may vary among labs and hospitals. For this test, common reference ranges are:

  • Blood samples
    • Newborn total bilirubin: 1–12 mg/dL or 17.1–205 μmol/L (SI units).
    • Adult, elderly, or child:
      • Total bilirubin: 0.3–1 mg/dL or 5.1–17 μmol/L (SI units).
      • Indirect bilirubin: 0.2–0.8 mg/dL or 3.4–12 μmol/L (SI units).
      • Direct bilirubin: 0.1–0.3 mg/dL or 1.7–5.1 μmol/L (SI units).
  • Urine samples
    • 0–0.02 mg/dL or 0–0.34 μmol/L (SI units).

What do the results mean?

Results that are greater than the reference ranges may indicate:

  • Gallstones.
  • Obstruction of the bile ducts.
  • Certain tumors of the liver.
  • Disorders that affect the breakdown and excretion of bilirubin.
  • Disorders that cause the destruction of red blood cells.
  • Liver diseases.
  • Reaction to certain medicines.
  • Reaction to blood transfusion.

Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.

Questions to ask your health care provider

Ask your health care provider, or the department that is doing the test:

  • When will my results be ready?
  • How will I get my results?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What other tests do I need?
  • What are my next steps?

Summary

  • The bilirubin test is used to evaluate liver function.
  • Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells are broken down.
  • When red blood cells are broken down more quickly than usual, or when there is a dysfunction in how bile is excreted, bilirubin levels can become elevated.
  • Results that are greater than the reference ranges may indicate a number of diseases.
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