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    Delta-aminolevulinic acid

    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.

    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 Results

    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.


    There are no risks.


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


    • Urine sample


      • Urine sample


      Tests for Delta-ALA

      Review Date: 1/21/2013

      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 A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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      St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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