A bilirubin urine test measures how much bilirubin you have in your urine. Bilirubin is a brownish yellow substance or pigment which forms when the red cells disintegrate. The substance is present in the liver and is usually removed from the body during digestion. The natural process of killing red blood cells during the production of new cells means that everybody has bilirubin in their body. (1)
Bilirubin does not become dangerous until it builds up in the blood. High levels of bilirubin may induce jaundice, which is a health problem which causes your skin to become yellow. This may be an indication of liver disease in children and adults. (2)
Bilirubin levels are related to age and general health. In infants, bilirubin, which is more than 20 to 25 milligrams per decilitre, can cause neurological damage. Therefore, it is important to verify their bilirubin levels. A urine is a way to measure the amount of bilirubin that you have in your body.
Because bilirubin in the urine may indicate liver injury before other symptoms occur, your healthcare provider can request a bilirubin urinary test if you have a greater risk of liver damage.
Risk factors associated with liver disease include:
- Family background in liver disease.
- Heavy drinking
- Exposure or possible exposure to hepatitis virus
- Take certain medications that may result in liver damage.
Preparing for Bilirubin Testing
Certain prescription medications may cause a false positive, or higher than normal reading bilirubin within your body. False positives indicate elevated levels of bilirubin which are not necessarily related to liver disease. Talk to your doctor about your use of medicines.
If you regularly take the following medications, you may need to stop taking them for a few days before your bilirubin test:
- birth control pills
Visit your local medical testing laboratory to obtain a special container for your urine collection. It usually consists of a large plastic container with a screw covered.
Bilirubin Testing Procedure
Testing bilirubin levels by urine analysis is painless, but requires commitment of time and attention to detail. A complete and precise test requires that you take your urine within 24 hours.
The day you start your bilirubin urine analysis, do not collect urine the first time you urinate. As a matter of fact, your first urine sample is typically more concentrated. Once you have urinated for the first time, begin taking your urine. This means that every time you urinate all day long, collect the urine in the container instead of flushing it into the toilet.
You can use a small clean mug to take the urine and pour it into the container to facilitate the process. Keep the container well covered after each use and refrigerated for the 24-hour collection period.
Take more urine the next morning. It’s your most recent collection, and This should be the first time you urinate in the morning. Tag the container with your name and date and return the complete container to the laboratory facility.
Bilirubin Testing in Infants
Infants are often diagnosed with jaundice. Babies’ liver is not as effective at eliminating bilirubin from the body. Increased bilirubin and resultant jaundice can be harmful to infants if the underlying condition is left untreated.
It may be difficult to test for bilirubin in urine in parents of tested infants. The laboratory will provide you with urine collection bags to adapt to your child’s diaper.
Use a fresh bag when changing layers. Place the contents of the individual collection bags into the collection container.
Results of Bilirubin Testing
Results of a 24-hour urinalysis of bilirubin should be available in the days following the completion of the test. Your health care provider will inform you of the results. (3)
If bilirubin is present in your urine, this may be an indication:
- liver disease (hepatitis)
- obstruction in the structures which carry the bile of your liver
- There’s a liver function problem
In persons in good health, bilirubin is not present in urine. If bilirubin is found on your test, you may need to have blood tests done to measure your bilirubin and liver function.