St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Alpha fetoprotein

    Fetal alpha globulin; AFP

    Alpha fetoprotein (AFP) is a protein normally produced by the liver and yolk sac of a developing baby during pregnancy. AFP levels decrease soon after birth. AFP probably has no normal function in adults.

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

    See also: Quadruple screen

    How the Test is Performed

    A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

    How to Prepare for the Test

    There is no special preparation.

    How the Test Will Feel

    When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

    Why the Test is Performed

    Your doctor may order this test to:

    • Screen for problems in the baby during pregnancy
    • Diagnose certain liver disorders
    • Screen for and monitor some cancers

    During pregnancy, this AFP test can be done along with amniocentesis to help detect spina bifida or other birth defects in the developing baby.

    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 doctor 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

    During pregnancy, abnormal levels of AFP (as part of a quadruple screen) may be due to:

    • Birth defects, including:
      • Anencephaly
      • Duodenal atresia
      • Gastroschisis
      • Omphalocele
      • Spina bifida
      • Tetralogy of Fallot
      • Turner syndrome
    • Genetic disorders, including Down syndrome
    • Inaccurate due date
    • Intrauterine death (usually results in a miscarriage)
    • Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.)

    Risks

    Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

    Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

    • Excessive bleeding
    • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
    • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
    • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

    References

    Simpson JL, Otaño L. Prenatal genetic diagnosis. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 7.

    Lee P, Pincus MR, 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. 21st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 74.

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

    BACK TO TOP

    • Blood test

      illustration

    • Alpha fetoprotein - seri...

      Presentation

      • Blood test

        illustration

      • Alpha fetoprotein - seri...

        Presentation

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Alpha fetoprotein

          Review Date: 9/12/2011

          Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          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, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile