Click here to return to the LMHS Home Page

 

Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Alpha fetoprotein

Fetal alpha globulin; AFP

 

Alpha fetoprotein (AFP) is a protein produced by the liver and yolk sac of a developing baby during pregnancy. AFP levels go down soon after birth. It is likely that AFP has no normal function in adults.

A test can be done to measure the amount of AFP in your blood.

How the Test is Performed

 

A blood sample is needed. Most of the time, blood is typically drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

You do not need to take any special steps to prepare.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

Your health care provider may order this test to:

  • Screen for problems in the baby during pregnancy. (The test is done as part of a larger set of blood tests called quadruple screen.)
  • Diagnose certain liver disorders.
  • Screen for and monitor some cancers.

 

Normal Results

 

The normal values in males or nonpregnant females is generally less than 40 micrograms/liter.

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

Greater than normal levels of AFP may be due to:

  • Cancer in testes, ovaries, biliary (liver secretion) tract, stomach, or pancreas
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Liver cancer
  • Malignant teratoma
  • Recovery from hepatitis
  • Problems during pregnancy

 

 

References

Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Prenatal diagnosis and fetal therapy. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010:chap 13.

Pincus MR, Bluth MH, McPherson RA. Diagnosis and management of cancer using serologic tumor markers. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 73.

Richards DS, Otano L, et al. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 11.

BACK TO TOPText only

 
  • Blood test

    Blood test

    illustration

  • Alpha fetoprotein - series

    Alpha fetoprotein - seri...

    Presentation

  •  
    • Blood test

      Blood test

      illustration

    • Alpha fetoprotein - series

      Alpha fetoprotein - seri...

      Presentation

    •  

    A Closer Look

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Alpha fetoprotein

         
         

        Review Date: 9/26/2015

        Reviewed By: Daniel N. Sacks MD, FACOG, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Private Practice, West Palm Beach, 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.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
        adam.com

         
         
         

         

         

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.