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Blood Test: Bilirubin

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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What Is a Blood Test?

By taking and testing a small sample of a person’s blood, doctors can check for many kinds of diseases and conditions. Blood tests help doctors check how the body’s organs are working and see if medical treatments are helpful.

To help your child get ready for a blood test, find out if they need to fast (not eat or drink) or should stop taking medicines before the test. Explain what to expect during the test. If your child is anxious about it, work together on ways to stay calm.

What Is Bilirubin?

Bilirubin (bil-ih-ROO-ben) is a pigment made when red blood cells break down. The liver changes it so the body can excrete (get rid of) it.

Why Are Bilirubin Tests Done?

Doctors order this test to see how much bilirubin is in the blood. High bilirubin levels might mean there's a liver problem or that too many red blood cells are breaking down.

Newborn babies, especially those born early, might get this test. They often have high bilirubin levels from lots of red blood cells breaking down. This leads to jaundice (JON-diss), which makes their skin and eyes look yellow.

The test also might be done if a child has jaundice or a medical condition that makes high bilirubin levels more likely.

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the bilirubin test, or what the test results mean, speak with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: November 2022