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What is a bilirubin test? – Test Procedure & Results Explained

What is bilirubin in the blood,

The bilirubin test measures the bilirubin level in the blood. This test can help a doctor identify and diagnose the cause of health issues such as liver disease, jaundice, and anaemia.

What is bilirubin?

Bilirubin is a yellowish-orange pigment produced from the breakdown of red blood cells. The liver clears bilirubin from the blood and converts its chemical component to aid excretion through stool as bile.

If the bilirubin level is higher than normal, your red blood cells may be breaking down at an unusual rate, or the liver isn’t functioning properly to breakdown and clear bilirubin from the blood.

A possibility for higher bilirubin levels in the blood is a problem in the pathway for bilirubin metabolism.

Why is a bilirubin test important?

Doctors can order the bilirubin test to diagnose and monitor bile duct and liver diseases like gallstones, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. This test can also aid the diagnosis of sickle cell and other conditions responsible for haemolytic anaemia.

Haemolytic anaemia is a disorder characterised bythe destruction of red blood faster than they are produced. High levels of bilirubin in the blood can lead to yellowing of the eyes and skin. A condition called jaundice.

Newborns usually have higher levels of bilirubin. Doctors use the type and level of bilirubin and age of the newborn to determine whether treatment is necessary or not.

What happens during a bilirubin test?

The healthcare professional will draw venous blood from your arm using a small needle, then collects the blood in a tube.

They will send the blood to the laboratory for analysis. Ensure you inform the doctor of the medicines and foods you’ve taken and your activity level, as these factors can affect your result.

After the test, you can resume your regular activities.

Who needs a bilirubin test?

Doctors order the bilirubin test under the following situations.

  • Jaundice
  • Low red blood cells or anaemia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Exposure to hepatitis viruses
  • A history of heavy drinking
  • Reaction to a toxic medicine

A bilirubin test is also necessary if you have the following symptoms.

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Clay-coloured stools

What does the result indicate?

The bilirubin test measures the total bilirubin and gives the value of two different bilirubin:

  • Unconjugated or indirect bilirubin

This bilirubin is created from the breakdown of red blood cells. Unconjugated bilirubin travel from the bloodstream to the liver.

  • Conjugated or direct bilirubin

This is the bilirubin in the liver that undergoes a chemical change and transported to the intestine before excretion.

The normal result for adults above 18 years is 1.2 milligrams per decilitre of blood (mg/dL). People below 18 have a normal result of 1mg/dL. The normal result for direct bilirubin is below 0.3mg/dL.

Men usually have a slightly higher bilirubin level than women, while African-Americans have lower bilirubin than other races.

A high level of bilirubin may result from:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Viral hepatitis
  • A reaction to blood transfusion
  • Anaemia
  • Gallstones
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Gilbert syndrome- this is a common, inherited condition characterised by the deficiency of an enzyme then breaks down bilirubin

Engaging in strenuous exercises like a marathon can increase the level of bilirubin. Barbiturates, penicillin, caffeine, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) known as salicylates can reduce the level of bilirubin.

Bilirubin levels lower than normal are not an issue. Newborns with high bilirubin levels that do not return to normal in the first few days to two weeks may have the following.

  • An inherited infection
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Incompatible blood type between mother and child
  • A liver disease

If you have concerns about what is bilirubin in blood tests, you can visit Private Blood Test London. You can also contact us on 020 7183 0244 for your bilirubin test and other blood tests.