Tests and diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma

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Multiple myeloma is diagnosed by detecting the monoclonal protein (also known as a paraprotein, monoclonal band or monoclonal component) through a complete blood analysis and urine tests. The bone marrow must also be studied by collecting a needle biopsy sample from the iliac (hip bone) or sternum before diagnosing multiple myeloma.

Blood collection tube

Blood tests:

  • Complete blood count. Measures the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. If there are too many myeloma cells in the bone marrow, then some of these blood cells will be present in lower levels than normal. The most common finding is a low red blood cell count (anaemia).
  • Biochemistry. Tests used to confirm blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels, as well as blood levels for creatinine (Cr), albumin, calcium and other electrolytes.
  • Immunoglobulin quantification tests. These tests provide information about the total amount of monoclonal myeloma immunoglobulin and any decreases in normal immunoglobulins.
  • 24-hour serum and urine protein electrophoresis (SPEP and UPEP). To determine the amount of proteins corresponding to the abnormal myeloma immunoglobulins.
  • Immunofixation (in serum and urine). Immunofixation provides information and identifies the different types of heavy and light chains found in each patient.


Bone marrow harvesting from the lumbar region

Bone marrow aspiration. This procedure is carried out to examine the bone marrow. It is performed under local anaesthesia and involves inserting a needle into the hip bone or sternum before withdrawing a small amount of bone marrow fluid. Patients may note a certain amount of pressure during the procedure, but it is usually painless. They can return home a few hours after the minor intervention.

The diagnosis sometimes requires a bone marrow biopsy. These are performed on the hip bone and this time the actual bone marrow is extracted for analysis.


Person having a chest X-ray done

Bone X-rays. Bone loss caused by myeloma cells can be detected through radiographic studies. This generally involves taking a series of X-rays of the majority of the body’s most important bones and is known as a radiographic bone or skeletal survey.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Computed tomography (CT). This procedure generates images of the body from different angles and provides a detailed picture of different types of tissue.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a powerful magnet and radiofrequency waves to produce detailed images of the body’s internal structures.This technique can be very useful when faced with indications of myeloma or other complications, such as spinal cord compression or fractures of the spinal vertebrae.

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Substantiated information by:

Carlos Fernández de Larrea Rodríguez
Gloria Garcia Barriga

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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