I. What Is Erythropoietin Testing?

Your body produces EPO in response to your levels of:

  • Blood oxygen
  • Red blood cells

Your health care provider uses the results of your test to help pinpoint potential health conditions.

Why should you get tested

Your EPO levels, in conjunction with other test results, can help your doctor determine the cause of conditions, such as anemia or high red blood cell count (polycythemia). This can help guide appropriate treatment for your condition.

Who should get tested

This test may be ordered if you have:

  • Anemia
  • Elevated levels of red blood cells

Professional sports organizations also use this test to test athletes who may be using synthetic EPO as a performance-enhancing drug.

When to get tested

Your doctor can determine if the test is necessary based on your symptoms or the results of other tests, such as a complete blood count or red blood cell count.

II. How to Prepare for Erythropoietin Testing

Erythropoietin testing is performed using a blood sample. There’s no special preparation needed before your blood is drawn, but you should speak with your doctor about factors that can affect how results are interpreted. This includes:

  • Medications and supplements
  • Blood donation
  • Pregnancy

III. How an Erythropoietin Test Works

If it’s necessary for you to have erythropoietin testing, your health care provider will give you an order to take to a lab. A lab technician draws a sample of your blood, usually from your hand or the inside surface of your forearm. This is a simple process that takes a few minutes.

Once the technician has collected the sample using a small needle and vial, it’s analyzed to measure EPO levels.

IV. Understanding Erythropoietin Testing Results

Blood test results are typically available within a week and delivered directly to your health care provider.

EPO test results are given as a measurement in milliunits per milliliter (mU/mL) and compared to a reference range to determine if levels are normal. The normal range is usually between 2.6 and 18.5 mU/mL, depending on the test a lab uses.

EPO levels that are higher than the normal range could indicate:

  • Anemia from bone marrow disorders or iron deficiency
  • Kidney tumors, which secrete EPO
  • Secondary polycythemia due to altitudes or lung disease. This is an overproduction of red blood cells because of low blood oxygen.

EPO levels that are lower than the normal range could indicate:

  • Anemia from chronic disease
  • Kidney disease or chronic kidney failure
  • Primary polycythemia, a rare blood disorder that tends to occur in older males

Many factors affect EPO levels, so it’s critical to discuss your results with your health care provider, who can take into account your medical history, age, gender, and other factors.

Your physician may recommend treatment or additional tests, depending on your results.

V. Learn From Our Erythropoietin Testing Sources

You can find additional information about EPO testing on the following websites, which were used to create this guide.