A bilirubin test measures the levels of bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin (bil-ih-ROO-bin) is a yellowish pigment that is made during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin passes through the liver and is eventually excreted out of the body.
Higher than normal levels of bilirubin may indicate different types of liver or bile duct problems. Occasionally, higher bilirubin levels may be caused by an increased rate of destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis).
Why it’s done
Bilirubin testing is usually done as part of a group of tests to check the health of your liver. Bilirubin testing may be done to:
- Investigate jaundice — a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by elevated levels of bilirubin. A common use of this test is to measure bilirubin levels in newborns to check for infant jaundice.
- Determine whether there might be blockage in your bile ducts, in either the liver or the gallbladder.
- Help detect liver disease, particularly hepatitis, or monitor its progression.
- Help evaluate anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells.
- Help follow how a treatment is working.
- Help evaluate a suspected drug toxicity.
Some common tests that might be done at the same time as bilirubin testing include
- Liver function tests. Blood tests that measure certain enzymes or proteins in your blood.
- Albumin and total protein. Levels of albumin — a protein made by the liver — and total protein show how well your liver is making proteins that your body needs to fight infections and perform other functions.
- Complete blood count. This test measures several components and features of your blood.
- Prothrombin time. This test measures the clotting time of plasma.
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