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Quantitative nephelometry test

Quantitative immunoglobulins

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Definition

Quantitative nephelometry is a lab test to quickly and accurately measure levels of certain proteins called immunoglobulins in the blood. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that help fight infection.

This test specifically measures the immunoglobulins IgM, IgG, and IgA.

How the Test is Performed

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 slight bruising. This soon goes away.

How to Prepare for the Test

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4 hours before the test.

Normal Results

Normal results for the three immunoglobulins are:

  • IgG: 650 to 1600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 6.5 to 16.0 grams per liter (g/L)
  • IgM: 54 to 300 mg/dL, or 540 to 3000 mg/L
  • IgA: 40 to 350 mg/dL, or 400 to 3500 mg/L

The examples above show the common measurements for these test results. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples.

Risks

There is little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person 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 lightheaded
  • Multiple punctures to locate veins
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

What Abnormal Results Mean

An increased level of IgG may be due to:

Decreased levels of IgG may be due to:

Increased levels of IgM may be due to:

Decreased levels of IgM may be due to:

  • Agammaglobulinemia (very rare)
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma

Increased levels of IgA may be due to:

  • Chronic infections, especially of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn disease
  • Multiple myeloma

Decreased levels of IgA may be due to:

  • Agammaglobulinemia (very rare)
  • Hereditary IgA deficiency
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Gut disease that leads to protein loss

Other tests are needed to confirm or diagnose any of the conditions above.

Why the Test is Performed

The test provides a rapid and accurate measurement of the amounts of the immunoglobulins IgM, IgG, and IgA.

Review Date: 4/2/2018
Reviewed By: Richard LoCicero, MD, private practice specializing in hematology and medical oncology, Longstreet Cancer Center, Gainesville, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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