Siamak T. Nabili, MD, MPH
Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What is erythropoietin (EPO)?
- Chemically, what is erythropoietin (EPO)?
- What exactly does erythropoietin (EPO) do?
- Is the kidney the sole source of erythropoietin (EPO)?
- Why is an erythropoietin (EPO) test performed?
- How is the erythropoietin (EPO) test performed?
- What are normal erythropoietin (EPO) levels?
- What does an abnormal erythropoietin (EPO) level indicate?
- Can person without a medical disease or condition have a high erythropoietin (EPO) level?
- Is erythropoietin (EPO) available as a prescribed medication?
- What are the clinical uses of erythropoietin (EPO)?
- Erythropoietin (EPO) At A Glance
Why is an erythropoietin test performed?
The erythropoietin hormone can be detected and measured in the blood. The level of erythropoietin in the blood can indicate bone marrow disorders, (such as polycythemia, or increased red blood cell production) kidney disease, or erythropoietin abuse. Testing erythropoietin blood levels is thus of value if:
- Too little erythropoietin might be responsible for too few red blood cells (such as in evaluating anemia, especially anemia related to kidney disease).
- Too much erythropoietin might be causing too many red blood cells (polycythemia).
- Too much erythropoietin might be evidence for a
- Too much erythropoietin in an athlete may suggest erythropoietin abuse.
How is the erythropoietin test performed?
The patient is usually asked to fast for 8-10 hours (overnight) and sometimes to lie quietly and relax for 20 or 30 minutes before the test. The test requires a routine sample of blood, which is sent to the laboratory for analysis.
What are normal erythropoietin levels?
Normal levels of erythropoietin range from 4 up to 24 mU/ml (milliunits per milliliter).
What does an abnormal erythropoietin level indicate?
Lower than normal values of erythropoietin are seen, for example, in anemia due to chronic (longstanding) kidney failure.
Elevated erythropoietin levels can be seen, for example, in polycythemia rubra vera, a disorder characterized by an excess of red blood cells.
The correct interpretation of an abnormal erythropoietin level depends on the particular clinical situation.
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