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Difference Between Albumin and Prealbumin

Albumin vs Prealbumin

Prealbumin and albumin are two indicators used to assess protein status at the visceral level. If someone is having some wounds, he will need ample protein so that wound healing can take place. Thus, if there is malnutrition as stipulated by the prealbumin and albumin measurements then this must be corrected first above all else. Measuring the two factors will also give the physician an idea as to the severity of the present deficiency.

Albumin is a protein, actually one of the plentiful proteins in the blood (over half the amount of all serum proteins). It is made in the liver and its value describes the protein status of both the internal organs and the blood. This substance is responsible for maintaining the normal colloidal osmotic pressure that helps fluids flow along vascular the spaces only. Thus, a decrease in such will lead to the escape of these fluids to the tissue spaces and manifests as edema.

When using albumin as the test to indicate the nutrition status of the individual. One has to keep in mind that it has a long half-life, about 20 days and a huge serum pool. Because of its half-life, this makes albumin a late index of malnutrition. When albumin levels have gone down below normal, these imply that a significant quantity of the serum pool was gone.

With regard to prealbumin, although it is another protein indicator, it is different from albumin because it has a shorter half-life. This makes it a more sensitive protein indicator at 2 days half-life. It is also synthesized in the liver with the main tasks of protein transport and protein binding. In the more technical sense, prealbumin is named transthyretin because prealbumin has a misleading connotation that makes it a precursor to albumin, which is definitely not the case. Lastly, it has a lesser serum pool compared to albumin.

Prealbumin must be screened for all patients, especially those who have wounds because it is the best monitoring index for one’s nutritional status. It is not easily affected by the patient’s hydration status unlike for albumin tests. Its shorter half-life makes it possible to evaluate one’s nutrition status in a shorter timeframe since prealbumin levels can be obtained from the patient 1-2 times a week. With albumin screening, you need at least 3 weeks to note for reliable protein improvements since an early rise in albumin in the first two weeks may suggest a different event like hemoconcentration issues (not nutrition status).

1. Albumin has a longer half-life than prealbumin.

2. Albumin has a greater serum pool than prealbumin.

3. Prealbumin is a better (more reliable) and faster indicator for assessing one’s nutritional level.

4. Albumin gives a longer term picture of the patient’s nutrition stat while prealbumin reflects changes in the protein levels for shorter timeframes.

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  1. Practical & important concepts
    Very helpful in clarifying the similar/confusing terms!!!!
    Very easily understood, reader-friendly, yet not too basic nor plain.
    Definitely highly recommended to both students & educators

    THANKS so much!!
    Look forward to seeing more. : )

  2. Prealbumin and albumin are no longer considered accurate measures of nutritional status based on current literature. Instead, they are negative acute phase proteins that are more of an indication of inflammation in the body.

    • Hie Kala,
      As you have said albumin and prealbumin are no longer used as indicators. Would you please share the latest literature that describes the best indicators for protein-energy malnutrition in elderly or people with chronic diseases.
      Eagerly waiting

  3. It’s awesome to visit this site and reading the views of all friends on the topic of this article, while I
    am also zealous of getting knowledge.

  4. Thank you for the succinct explanation of albumin and prealbumin roles. I found this article most helpful.

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