Serum Protein Electrophoresis: Basic Facts

Serum protein electrophoresis, or SPEP OR SPE for short, is a lab test and examines specific proteins in the blood, as a way of helping diagnose disorders.

To do the test, blood must be collected. Then, the doctor may use a lab technique called electrophoresis to do the examination. Specific proteins such as Albumin, Alpha-1, Alpha-2, Beta and Gamma will be measured to look for abnormalities.

Reference Range

Normal Levels (g/dL)
Albumin  3.3-5.7
Alpha-1  0.1-0.4
Alpha-2 0.3-0.9

An Abnormal SPEP Test

Protein Abnormal Levels Indications
Albumin Low albumin levels Malnutrition, cirrhosis, and nephrotic syndrome
  High albumin levels Dehydration
Alpha-1 High Alpha-1 levels Alcoholic liver disease, and liver cancer
Alpha-2  Low Alpha-2 levels Hemolytic anemia
  High Alpha-2 levels Infection, malignancy, and inflammation
Beta High Beta levels Iron-deficiency anemia, pregnancy, and estrogen therapy
Gamma High Gamma levels Agammaglobulinemia and hypogammaglobulinemia
  Low Gamma levels Inflammatory, autoimmune, and hematologic/non-hematologic conditions

Also, the serum protein electrophoresis test is often used to check for the presence of abnormal proteins called M proteins, which might be indicative of a form of cancer called myeloma and other conditions such as Waldenström macroglobulinemia, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), or primary amyloidosis.

And it must be noted that results of the SPEP tests only indicate the presence of a medical condition. So, further testing is required to confirm a diagnosis.

Keywords: serum protein electrophoresis; SPEP test; SPE test.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.