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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 looks at how well your liver is working. It watches for signs of liver disease, such as hepatitis, or the effects of medicines that can harm the liver. It also can see if something is blocking the bile ducts. It can help with decisions about whether newborns with jaundice need treatment.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Adults should not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test.
  • For children, there's generally nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How is the test done?

A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.

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.
  • You can go back to your usual activities 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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.