Elevated bilirubin refers to a bilirubin reading that falls outside the normal range, which for adults is 0.0 to 1.4mg/dL for a total count, 0.0 to 0.3mg/dL for direct bilirubin and 0.2 to 1.2mg/dL for indirect bilirubin. These levels set the standard range, or normal range, for bilirubin levels. Many factors contribute to readings outside of the normal range, such as differences among laboratory readings, different body characteristics and certain health conditions, say experts at WebMD.
Physicians test bilirubin levels by using a blood sample, say experts at WebMD. These tests process relatively quickly and reveal results within 1 to 2 hours after testing.
When tests come back showing elevated bilirubin levels, the testing facility itself or an underlying health condition may be to blame. Potential physical conditions that raise these levels include infections, some genetic conditions, diseases that damage the liver or block off bile ducts and some medications.
Gallbladder infections and cholecystitis may raise bilirubin levels, as can hepatitis, mononucleosis and cirrhosis. Gallstones and pancreatic cancer may block bile ducts, raising bilirubin levels. Sometimes people develop high bilirubin levels following a blood transfusion. This occurs when people have allergic reactions to transfusions, which destroys red blood cells. Lastly, some medications, such as Valium, Indocin, Dilantin and many antibiotics and birth controls can cause elevated bilirubin levels.