The Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Test

What is the alpha-1 antitrypsin test?

Alpha-1-antitrypsin is a protein complex (protein) that is needed for the digestion of other proteins in the intestine. Alpha-1-antitrypsin is also found in the blood, where it prevents the body’s own cells from being digested. Serious diseases occur when the alpha-1-antitrypsin level is too high or too low. Therefore, the alpha-1-antitrypsin test aims at a general determination of the amount of the protein. Both the blood of affected persons and the amount of alpha-1-antitrypsin in the stool can be tested.

The indications for a test

Indications for an alpha-1-antitrypsin test are suspicions of too high or too low alpha-1-antitrypsin levels. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency results in a severe disease, which is mainly due to defective formation in the liver. This results in damage to the lungs and liver.

Especially in young people with combined liver and lung disease, a deficiency of the protein should be considered, so that the indication for an alpha-1-antitrypsin test exists. The increase in protein is usually caused by general inflammation in the body. In this case, there are much less complex tests that can confirm the inflammatory reaction, which is why there is usually no indication for an alpha-1-antitrypsin test here.

The procedure

The alpha-1-antitrypsin test is usually carried out by the family doctor or the pneumologist (lung specialist). The simplest method consists of a measurement from a small amount of blood. A few drops of blood are usually sufficient for this.

However, the determination is often carried out as part of a larger laboratory test, so that a few blood tubes are sent to a laboratory. The laboratory in charge then tests the blood for the amount of alpha-1-antitrypsin, among other things. If the value is below a certain limit, this may indicate a deficiency of the protein. If necessary, another alpha-1-antitrypsin test is first carried out to determine the level. This is usually followed by an additional genetic test, since a deficiency of alpha-1-antitrypsin is often genetically determined and can lead to serious diseases.

The evaluation

The evaluation of the alpha-1-antitrypsin test is usually done in a laboratory that receives the blood samples from the doctor’s office or hospital where the blood was collected. Since each laboratory works with slightly different dilutions and measuring methods, the test result usually arrives together with a laboratory boundary. In this way, it can be quickly identified whether the alpha-1-antitrypsin value is above, in or below the limit.

The costs

If an alpha-1-antitrypsin test is performed, this is usually based on a solid medical indication. Diseases caused by Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency are often inherited, so that a family history is known. If another family member develops symptoms, a test can be carried out quickly and the costs are covered by the health insurance company.

Those who want to test underage children may be forced to pay for the test out of their own pocket. This depends on whether symptoms are present that can be attributed to an Alpha-1-Antritrypsin deficiency. Exactly how expensive the test is depends on the cost of taking the blood sample and the cost of evaluation in the laboratory. A simple test is usually not very expensive. A detailed genetic examination, on the other hand, can involve high costs.