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What is a Protein C Test?

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  • Written By: Katie Munday
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2016
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A protein C test is designed to help determine a person’s protein C levels. The test can be performed by a doctor, who will draw a patient’s blood and send the blood to a medical laboratory for analysis. It is simple in procedure and can be conducted quickly. By indicating a patient’s protein C levels, a protein C test has several potential medical benefits. It can detect a risk factor for blood clots, repeated miscarriages or multi-system organ failure. Additionally, a protein C test is minimally invasive and carries little medical risk.

Protein C is an anticoagulant, which means that, along with protein S, it helps the body to guard against excessive blood clotting. Protein C deficiencies can be inherited or can develop over time. Protein C deficiencies can be problematic for a number of reasons, and therefore, identification of deficiencies via a protein C test can inform the course of treatment that a doctor prescribes for a patient. A doctor might suggest a protein C test be performed if he or she cannot otherwise account for thrombosis, which is the formation of a blood clot, in a patient. This is particularly true if the patient has thrombosis in an unusual area of his or her body.

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Sometimes a protein C test will be performed if a doctor suspects that a patient has had repeated miscarriages because of a protein C deficiency. Finally, low protein C concentrations might indicate inflammation and can be one of the best predictors of mortality in critically ill patients. A protein C test, because of its predictive capability, might help doctors identify treatment that would help diminish the risk of multi-system organ failure and early death in a patient.

Performing protein C tests is a straightforward process. A doctor will select on the patient a vein from which to take blood, usually on the arm or hand. The area is sanitized, and a needle is inserted. Blood, after it is drawn, is collected in a tube. At this point, the needle is withdrawn from the patient’s vein, a bandage is applied to the area, and the blood drawn from the patient is sent to a medical laboratory for analysis.

There is little risk involved in having blood taken in order to test for protein C. Possible risks include excessive bleeding, a feeling of being lightheaded, hematoma and infection. Before a protein C test is performed, a patient should inform the doctor of his or her full medical history, including what medications he or she is on, because some medications, such as warfarin, can skew the test outcomes.

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