Bilirubin Test


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is the Bilirubin Test?

A bilirubin test is done to measure the amount of bilirubin in your blood. The test is done usually to detect jaundice, liver disease, or anemia. Other names of the bilirubin test are total serum bilirubin or TSB.

What is Bilirubin?

Bilirubin is an orange-yellowish pigment that is produced naturally by the body during the breakdown of red blood cells. The bilirubin is released in the bile. Bile is a fluid present in the liver that helps in the digestion of food.

In a healthy human body, most of the bilirubin that is produced is excreted out of the body in the form of stools and urine. But if your liver is not functioning properly, then this bilirubin mixes with the blood and can cause a condition called jaundice and many other liver diseases. Jaundice causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow and the doctor may immediately prescribe a bilirubin test.

Why do I need a Bilirubin test?

A bilirubin test is usually done along with many other tests to check the functioning of your liver. Here are some reasons as to why your doctor may ask you to do a bilirubin test.

– A common reason for the bilirubin test is to detect jaundice. Elevated levels of the pigment can cause a yellowish tinge in your skin and eyes.

– A bilirubin test is also done to detect jaundice in newborns.

– To detect blockage in the bile ducts of the liver.

– To diagnose hepatitis, a common ailment of the liver.

– To examine the progression of other liver diseases.

– To detect if there is an increase in the destruction of red blood cells.

– High levels of bilirubin can also cause gallbladder disease.

– To diagnose hemolytic anemia.

Do children and babies need a Bilirubin test?

Yes, even a newborn baby may need a bilirubin test. Neonatal jaundice is a very common condition in newborn babies. In such cases, a bilirubin test is done to detect the condition of impaired liver functioning.

During the neonatal stage, the liver is not matured enough to tackle the large amounts of bilirubin produced by the body. The baby’s skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow in color. The condition occurs usually within one or four days of your baby’s birth.

High levels of bilirubin can cause severe jaundice and can cause discomfort followed by poor feeding. In very rare cases, a child can get seizures, brain damage, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and even deafness. So, it is advised to detect early signs of jaundice and take precautionary measures to prevent the chances of severe complications.

How do I know that I need a Bilirubin test?

Our body will show some major symptoms that are purely indicative of elevated bilirubin levels.

– Yellowish tinge in the skin and the sclera of the eye.
– Itching of the skin.
– Anemia followed by weakness and pale skin.
– Mild fever.
– Vomiting and nausea.
– Muscle aches.
– Dark urine.
Light-colored stool.
– Abdominal pain (suggestive of genetic diseases).
– Abnormal liver enzymes are suggestive of liver diseases like cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Do I need to fast before a Bilirubin test?

Yes, you may be asked to fast for several hours before the test. The fasting instructions may vary according to healthcare providers and laboratories.

How do I prepare for a Bilirubin test?

A bilirubin test is very simple just like a normal blood test.

-You will be asked not to eat or drink anything hours before the test.

– Avoid any strenuous activity or exercise before the test as this may affect the test results.

– Certain drugs such as penicillin and salicylates must be avoided as they may decrease the blood bilirubin level.

How is the Bilirubin test done?

In adults, the bilirubin test is done by taking a blood sample from the vein of your arm. In newborn babies, the blood sample is taken from a heel.

– Your health provider or nurse will clean a patch of your skin with an antiseptic solution.

– A tourniquet or an elastic band is put around your arm to swell up the blood in your vein.

– A needle with a vial or syringe is used to draw the blood from your vein.

– The tourniquet is removed and a cotton ball is pressed on the site to stop bleeding. A small band-aid is put on the area.

For babies, the heel-stick procedure is used to collect the blood. The process is quite similar to a normal blood test.

– The technician cleans a small area on the heel of the baby.

– A tiny needle or lancet is used to draw a small sample of blood from the area.

– The puncture site is then bandaged properly. Your baby may feel slight pain but only temporarily.

Can I stay with my baby during a Bilirubin test?

Yes, parents are usually allowed to stay with their babies during a bilirubin test. Parents are encouraged to relax their babies by singing their favorite song or a lullaby.

How long does a Bilirubin test take to perform?

A bilirubin test normally takes only a few minutes to perform. In case, your health provider is having difficulty in finding a vein, he may take a few extra minutes.

When will I get my Bilirubin test results?

You will get your bilirubin test results within a few hours or it may take a day.

What is the cost of a Bilirubin test in India?

A bilirubin test can cost anywhere between Rs 110 to 470, in India. It depends on the city you are residing in, the laboratory, quality, and efficiency of the technician.

How common is neonatal jaundice in India?

Neonatal jaundice or neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is a very common condition among newborn babies in India. It is routinely diagnosed in close to 20-50% of all live births and 80% of all preterm births. This usually affects the babies during the 1st week after birth. Early detection and treatment are critical in mitigating the risk of neonatal death.

What are the risks of a Bilirubin test?

A bilirubin test is completely safe. Some people and small children may complain of dizziness or lightheadedness, but this will go away after taking rest for a while.

If you are anxious or have a fear of needles, it is advised to talk to your technician beforehand and make the procedure comfortable. Some people can have a bruise or soreness around the area of the puncture. If this condition does not heal within a few days, you may consult your doctor.

What is the normal range of Bilirubin in older child adults?

– The normal range of direct bilirubin in older children and adults should be between 0 to 0.4 mg/dL.

-The normal range of total bilirubin should be between 0.3 mg/dL to 1.0 mg/dL.

– If your range of total bilirubin is more than 1.0 mg/dL, it suggests an elevated bilirubin level indicative of a condition called hyperbilirubinemia. In such conditions, you should immediately consult a doctor. The normal bilirubin test levels can be charted as-

Direct Bilirubin 0-0.4 mg/dL
Total Bilirubin 0.3-1.0 mg/dL

What is the normal range of Bilirubin in a newborn?

The bilirubin in newborns is generally high during the initial few days. The normal value of direct bilirubin in newborns should be under 5.2 mg/dL. The normal range of TSB in a healthy newborn should be less than 0.3 mg/dL.

Direct Bilirubin Under 5.2 mg/dL
TSB Under 0.3 mg/dL

Can the Bilirubin test be done during pregnancy?

Yes, it is completely safe to do a bilirubin test during pregnancy.

When do I need a Bilirubin test during pregnancy?

Cholestasis is a common condition during pregnancy. The symptoms may arise during early pregnancy but are most common during the last trimesters. The condition causes it harder to process or remove the bilirubin from your blood.

However, the condition is temporary and usually subsides after a few days of delivery. The symptoms may include the yellow color of the skin and eyes, light-colored stool, itching and pain in the belly. Your doctor will prescribe a few medications to relieve you from the symptoms and for the health of your baby.

What should I do if I have abnormal Bilirubin test results?

High bilirubin readings indicate that your liver is not functioning properly and you need medical attention. However, in certain cases, your test results may indicate a high reading due to the intake of certain kinds of food or medication or strenuous activity. In any case, you should always consult a medical practitioner who will explain your test results to you.

What does abnormal or high Bilirubin test results indicate in newborns?

High bilirubin or abnormal results can indicate neonatal jaundice. However, if the high bilirubin levels persist for a few weeks it may indicate the following underlying complications:

– Gilbert syndrome.
– Genetic disorders.
– Viral infection.
– Liver disease.
– Bile duct malfunction.
– Maternal drug-related symptoms.

What does high Bilirubin test results indicate in adults?

A high bilirubin range may indicate several conditions such as:

– Gilbert’s syndrome.
– Liver dysfunction such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, or primary biliary cholangitis.
– Liver cancer.
– Bile duct inflammation or blockage.
– Hemolytic anemia.

What do I do if I have a high Bilirubin level?

If you have high bilirubin levels you may immediately consult your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to do further blood tests to diagnose the underlying causes. The tests essentially indicate that your gallbladder and liver is not functioning well. Based on the results, your doctor will make the prognosis and determine the treatment.

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