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 the urine.

Alternative Names

Delta-aminolevulinic acid

How the test is performed

Your health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any of your medicines before the test. Some drugs can interfere with the results.

  • On day 1, urinate into the toilet when you get up in the morning.
  • Collect all of the urine (in the provided container) that you produce over the next 24 hours.
  • On day 2, urinate into the same container when you get up in the morning.
  • Cap the container. Keep the sample in the refrigerator or a cool place during the collection period.
  • Label the container with your name, the date, and the time you last urinated.
  • Return the sample to the lab or health care provider as soon as you can after completing it.

To collect a sample from an 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 the child.
  • For males, place the bag over the entire penis and attach it to the skin with the adhesive.
  • For females, place the bag over the lips of the vagina.
  • Place a diaper on the infant and cover the bag. The infant should be checked frequently and the bag changed after the infant has urinated into it. It may take a few attempts to collect a sample from an active infant.
  • Drain the urine into the container for transport to the lab. As with adults, the container must be kept refrigerated.
  • Deliver it to the lab or your health care provider as soon as possible after completion.

How to prepare for the test

Your doctor may tell you to temporarily stop taking any medicines that can affect test results. These may include penicillin, barbiturates, birth control pills, and griseofulvin.

How the test will feel

The test involves only normal urination. 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 (some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens).

Normal value ranges may vary slightly from one lab to another. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

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.

Figures

Urine sample

References

Anderson KE. The porphyrias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine.24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 217.

Revision

Last reviewed 1/21/2013 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 A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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