Definition of Test, erythropoietin

Test, erythropoietin: A test of the hormone EPO (erythropoietin) in blood. The EPO level can indicate bone marrow disorders, kidney disease, or EPO abuse.

Testing EPO blood levels is of value if:

  • Too little EPO might be responsible for too few red blood cells (such as in evaluating anemia).
  • Too much EPO might be causing too many red blood cells (polycythemia).
  • Too much EPO might be evidence for a kidney tumor.
  • Too much EPO in an athlete suggests EPO abuse.

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.

Mayo Clinic reference values ("normal") of EPO are 2.6-18.5 mU/ml (milliunits per milliliter). Subnormal values of EPO are found for example in anemia due to chronic kidney failure. Elevated EPO levels are found for example in polycythemia rubra vera, a disorder characterized by an excess of red blood cells. The correct interpretation of an abnormal EPO level depends on the patient's clinical status


Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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