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Immunofixation by Electrophoresis (Urine)

Does this test have other names?

Immunofixation electrophoresis, IFE

What is this test?

This test separates and measures proteins in your urine. It looks for an abnormal protein called monoclonal protein, or M-protein.

An M-protein is a type of abnormal immunoglobulin made by plasma cells, a kind of white blood cell. Your body uses immunoglobulins to make antibodies that help attack invaders such as germs. If your body makes M-protein, it may mean that you have one of several cancers, such as multiple myeloma, or another serious health problem.

This test uses an electric current to push proteins in a urine sample through a special gel. This is the electrophoresis portion. The lab treats the gel to keep only certain proteins. This is the immunofixation portion. A stain makes different proteins show up as band, or peaks.

Why do I need this test?

You might have this test if your doctor suspects that you have one of several medical problems, including multiple myeloma, primary amyloidosis, or Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that develops when abnormal plasma cells build up in bone marrow. As a result, many bones develop tumors, and the bone marrow can't do its normal job, which is to make different blood cells. Symptoms of multiple myeloma include:

  • Pain in the bones

  • Unusual fractures

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

Primary amyloidosis develops when a substance called amyloid gathers in clumps in your organs. Amyloid is made of fragments of antibody protein. When amyloid gathers in organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, heart, or brain, it can damage them. Sometimes people have both multiple myeloma and primary amyloidosis.

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a kind of cancer. It's caused by high levels of monoclonal immunoglobulin M, or IgM. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Unusual bleeding or bruises

  • Weight loss

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may recommend other tests to help determine whether you have a medical problem. These test may include:

  • Analysis of a sample of bone marrow

  • Biopsy of tissue from your body to check for signs of amyloidosis

  • X-rays to check your bones

  • Urine test to check for unusual levels of protein

  • Complete blood count, or CBC, that includes measuring the number of different cells in your blood

  • Measurement of levels of immunoglobulins in your blood

  • CT scans to look at your lymph nodes, spleen, and liver

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

How is this test done?

This test commonly requires a 24-hour urine sample. To do this test, you will need to collect all the urine you pass during a 24-hour period. You will collect it in a container that your doctor or the lab gives you.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no known risks.

What might affect my test results?

No other factors can affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.