Plasma amino acids is a screening test done on infants that looks at the amounts of amino acids in the blood. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins in the body.
Amino acids blood test
How the Test is Performed
Most of the time, blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin.
The blood collects in a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip.
A bandage is put over the spot to stop any bleeding.
The blood sample is sent to a lab. There are several types of methods used to determine the individual amino acid levels in the blood.
How to Prepare for the Test
The person having the test should not eat 4 hours before the test.
How the Test will Feel
There might be slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn. The needle stick will probably cause an infant or child to cry.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to measure the level of amino acids in the blood.
An increased level of a particular amino acid is a strong sign that there is a problem with the body's ability to break down (metabolize) that amino acid.
The test may also be used to look for decreased levels of amino acids in the blood.
Increased or decreased levels of amino acids in the blood may occur with fevers, inadequate nutrition, and certain medical conditions.
All measurements are in micromole per liter (micro mol/L). Normal values may vary between different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An increase in the total level of amino acids in the blood may be due to:
Ketoacidosis (from diabetes)
A decrease in the total level of amino acids in the blood may be due to:
Adrenal cortical hyperfunction
High or low amounts of individual plasma amino acids must be considered with other information. Abnormal results may be due to diet, hereditary problems, or effects of a medication.
Screening infants for increased levels of amino acids can help detect problems with metabolism. Early treatment for these conditions may prevent complications in the future.
Hortin GL. In: Burtis CA ed. Amino acids, peptides, and proteins. Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 21.
Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, FACMG, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Section on Medical Genetics, Winston-Salem, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.