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Bilirubin: About This Test

Picture showing location of liver

What is it?

A bilirubin test measures the amount of bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin is a substance produced when the liver breaks down old red blood cells. When bilirubin levels are high, the skin and whites of the eyes may look yellow (jaundice). This may be caused by liver disease.

Why is this test done?

This test is used to:

  • Check how well your liver is working and to watch for signs of liver disease, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, or the effects of medicines that can damage the liver.
  • Find out if something is blocking the bile ducts.
  • Help make decisions about whether newborn babies with jaundice need treatment.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • In general, you don't need to prepare before having this test. Your doctor may give you some specific instructions.

What happens during the test?

  • A health professional takes a sample of your blood.

What else should you know about the test?

  • Your results will include an explanation of what a "normal" result is. This is called a "reference range." It is just a guide. Your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed may still be normal for you.
  • Results that show slightly high bilirubin levels may be nothing to worry about. It could be caused by certain inherited diseases, such as Gilbert's syndrome, a condition that affects how the liver processes bilirubin. Some people with this problem get jaundice, but it's not harmful.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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