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Delta-ALA

 

Definition

Delta-ALA is a protein (amino acid) produced by the liver. A test can be done to measure the amount of this substance in your urine.

Alternative Names

Delta-aminolevulinic acid

How the test is performed

Your health care provider will instruct you, if necessary, to stop taking drugs that may interfere with the test. A 24-hour urine sample is needed.

  • On day 1, urinate into the toilet when you get up in the morning.
  • Collect all subsequent urine (in the provided container) for the next 24-hours.
  • On day 2, urinate into the same container when you get up in the morning.
  • Cap the container. Keep it in the refrigerator or a cool place during the collection period. Label the container with your name, the date, the time you last urinated, and return it as instructed.

Infant:

Thoroughly wash and rinse the area between the lips of the vagina or the head of the penis. Open the urine collection bag (the plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end), and place it on your infant. For males, the entire penis can be placed in the bag and the adhesive attached to the skin. For females, the bag is placed over the lips of the vagina.

Place a diaper over the infant (bag and all). The infant should be checked frequently and the bag changed after the infant has urinated into the bag. For active infants, this procedure may take a couple of attempts. Drain the urine into the container for transport to the laboratory. As with adults, the container must be kept refrigerated.

Deliver it to the laboratory or your health care provider as soon as possible upon completion.

Avoid exposure of the urine to direct light.

How to prepare for the test

Your doctor may tell you to temporarily stop taking any drugs that may affect test results. Such drugs include penicillin, barbiturates, birth control pills, and griseofulvin, an antifungal medicine.

How the test will feel

The test involves only normal urination and there is no discomfort.

Why the test is performed

This test looks for increased levels of delta-ALA. It may be used to help diagnose porphyria.

Normal Values

In general, the normal range is 0 to 7 milligrams per 24 hours.

What abnormal results mean

Increased levels of urinary delta-ALA may indicate:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Porphyria (several types)

Decreased levels may occur with chronic liver disease.

What the risks are

There are no risks.

References

Anderson KE. The porphyrias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 229.


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Review Date: 8/1/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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