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acid phosphatase test

Alternative Names 
prostatic acid phosphatase test, serum acid phosphatase test, PAP test, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase test, TRAP test

The acid phosphatase test measures the level of acid phosphatase in the blood. Acid phosphatase is an enzyme found in the prostate gland, semen, liver, spleen, blood cells, and bone marrow. If these organs and tissues are not functioning right, they may release acid phosphatase into the bloodstream.

Who is a candidate for the test? 
The acid phosphatase test was used primarily to diagnose and stage cancer of the prostate and to monitor the effect of the treatment. It may also be used to detect damage to the heart, liver, and other organs. Now a days there are more specific test that are used for prostate cancer detection.

How is the test performed? 
In order to measure the amount of acid phosphatase in the blood, a blood sample is taken from a vein in the arm. First, the skin over the vein is cleaned with an antiseptic. A tourniquet is wrapped around the upper arm to enlarge the veins. A small needle is gently inserted into a vein, and blood is collected for testing in the laboratory. After the tourniquet is removed a cotton ball is held over the needle site until bleeding stops.

What is involved in preparation for the test? 
A person should request specific instructions from his or her doctor.

What do the test results mean? 
A normal level of acid phosphatase in the blood is 0 to 0.8 U/L (units per litre). Abnormal levels of acid phosphatase in the blood may indicate one or more of the following:
  • prostate cancer that has spread outside the prostate gland, often to bone
  • decreased flow of blood to the prostate gland
  • Paget's disease, a disease in which bones thicken and soften
  • anaemia, a decreased number of circulating red blood cells
  • infection
  • prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland
  • thrombophlebitis, inflammation and small blood clots in a vein, usually in the leg
  • Gaucher's disease, a lipid metabolism disorder
  • hyperparathyroidism, a condition caused by increased activity of the parathyroid gland
  • heart attack
  • kidney disease, such as end stage renal disease
  • physical stimulation of the prostate gland, which can be done by prostate examination, colonoscopy, or enemas
  • multiple myeloma, a malignancy beginning in the plasma cells of the bone marrow
Author: David T. Moran, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 19/05/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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