Immunoelectrophoresis - blood
IEP - serum; Immunoglobulin electrophoresis - blood; Gamma globulin electrophoresis; Serum immunoglobulin electrophoresis; Amyloidosis - electrophoresis serum; Multiple myeloma - serum electrophoresis; Waldenström - serum electrophoresis
Serum immunoelectrophoresis is a lab test that measures proteins called immunoglobulins in the blood. Immunoglobulins are proteins that function as antibodies, which fight infection. There are many types of immunoglobulins. Some can be abnormal and may be due to cancer.
Immunoglobulins can also be measured in the urine.
How the Test is Performed
How to Prepare for the Test
There is no special preparation for this test.
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.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is most often used to check the levels of antibodies when certain cancers and other disorders are present or suspected.
A normal (negative) result means that the blood sample had normal types of immunoglobulins. The level of one immunoglobulin was not higher than any other.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to:
- Multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia or Waldenström macroglobulinemia (types of white blood cell cancers)
- Amyloidosis (buildup of abnormal proteins in tissues and organs)
- Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue)
- Kidney failure
Some people have monoclonal immunoglobulins, but do not have cancer. This is called monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance, or MGUS.
There is very 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
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Aoyagi K, Ashihara Y, Kasahara Y. Immunoassays and immunochemistry. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 44.
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Immunoelectrophoresis - serum and urine. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:673.
Last reviewed on: 5/20/2016
Reviewed by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.