Protein electrophoresis - urine

Alternative names
Urine protein electrophoresis; UPEP

Definition
This is a test that roughly quantitates the various protein fractions in urine. (See also immunoelectrophoresis - urine; immunofixation - urine.)

How the test is performed

Child or adult:
Collect a “clean-catch” (midstream) urine sample. To obtain a clean-catch sample, men or boys should wipe clean the head of the penis. Women or girls should wash the area between the labia with soapy water and rinse well. As you start to urinate, allow a small amount to fall into the toilet bowl. (This clears the urethra of contaminants.) Then, in a clean container, catch about 1 to 2 ounces of urine, and remove the container from the urine stream. Give the container to the health care provider or assistant.

Infant:
Thoroughly wash the area around the urethra. Open a Urine collection bag (a plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end), and place it on your infant. For males, the entire penis can be placed in the bag and the adhesive attached to the skin. For females, the bag is placed over the labia. Place a diaper over the infant (bag and all). Check your baby frequently and remove the bag after the infant has urinated into it. For active infants, this procedure may take a couple of attempts - lively infants can displace the bag, causing an inability to obtain the specimen. The urine is drained into a container for transport back to the health care provider.

Electrophoresis is a laboratory technique. The urine is placed on specially treated paper and exposed to an electric current. The various proteins migrate (move on the paper) to form bands that indicate the relative proportion of each protein fraction.

How to prepare for the test
Collection of the first morning urine, which is the most concentrated, may be advised. The health care provider may advise you to discontinue drugs that could interfere with the test.

How the test will feel
This test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.

Why the test is performed

Protein is not normally found in large quantities in the urine. However, the presence of protein in the urine can indicate a multitude of disorders.

Urine protein is roughly divided into urine albumin and globulins. Urine protein electrophoresis may be recommended to help determine the cause of protein in the urine or as a screening test to semi-quantitatively measure the various proteins in urine.

Normal Values

No significant amount of globulin protein in the urine.

Urine albumin is less than 50 mg/dL.

What abnormal results mean

     
  • Kidney failure  
  • Decreased kidney function  
  • Diabetic nephropathy  
  • Acute inflammation  
  • Nephrotic syndrome  
  • Acute urinary tract infection  
  • Multiple myeloma  
  • Amyloidosis

What the risks are
There are no risks associated with this test.

Special considerations
Drugs that can affect the measurement of serum proteins include chlorpromazine, corticosteroids, isoniazid, neomycin, phenacemide, salicylates, sulfonamides, and tolbutamide. Never discontinue any medication without consulting with your health care provider.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.

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