What are Liver Function Tests?
Liver functions tests are blood tests that are performed to diagnose and/or monitor liver disease or liver damage through enzyme and protein levels. While some of the tests will detect enzymes that occur in the blood only when the liver is diseased, others are done to ensure that the liver is working properly.
Your doctor may order a liver test for you if you are more likely to experience liver damage or disease due to the following factors:
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Family history of liver disease
- Use of certain medications
- Gallbladder disease or anemia
Types of Liver Function Tests
There is a large array of liver function tests that may be performed, with some of the most common including:
Alanine transaminase (ALT)
ALT is an enzyme found mainly in the liver that aids in the breakdown of proteins. High levels of ALT may indicate liver damage.
Aspartate transaminase (AST)
AST is an enzyme in the liver. High levels could be a sign of liver damage or disease.
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
ALP is an enzyme located in the liver, bile ducts and bone. High levels may indicate liver damage or disease, a blockage in a bile duct or bone disease.
Albumin and total protein test
Albumin and globulin are two main proteins created by the liver. Low levels of these proteins may be a sign of damage or disease.
Bilirubin is created when the body breaks down red blood cells. High levels in the blood may be a sign of liver damage.
High levels of GGT could mean liver or bile duct damage.
L-lactate dehydrogenase (LD)
LD is an enzyme that can be high when liver damage is present.
Prothrombin time (PT)
This test is used to measure how long it takes for your blood to clot. Slow clotting may be a sign of liver damage.
What to Expect During Testing
During liver function testing, a small amount of blood will be drawn, usually from your arm. Multiple tests may be needed over a few days or weeks so that your doctor can see if your levels change over time. Your blood samples will then be sent to a laboratory for analysis
Once your tests results come in, your doctor will review them and an appointment will be scheduled so that you can discuss the outcomes. If your liver function test results show elevated liver enzymes, further testing may be required.
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