What Are Liver Function Tests?
Liver function tests are blood tests taken that help diagnose and monitor liver disease or damage. The test basically measures the levels of specific enzymes and proteins found in your blood. While some liver function tests measure how well the liver is performing its normal functions (clearing bilirubin and producing protein), other tests measure enzymes that liver cells release responding to damage or disease.
What’s the Purpose?
There are many possible reasons behind getting a liver function test done. Here are a couple, just to name a few:
- To monitor probable side effects from a medication
- To monitor the progression of a disease
- To measure the severity of a disease—especially the scarring of the liver
- To screen for liver infections—like hepatitis
Common Liver Function Tests
Alanine transaminase (ALT)
An enzyme found in the liver that helps convert proteins into energy for the liver cells. When the liver is suffering from damage, ALT is released into the bloodstream, thus the levels increase.
Aspartate transaminase (AST)
This enzyme helps process amino acids. Similar to ALT, AST is usually present in blood at low levels. When your body has an increase in AST levels, this could mean there’s liver damage, disease, or muscle damage.
Alkaline phosphate (ALP)
This enzyme is found in the liver and bone—it’s essential in breaking down proteins. If you get higher than normal levels of ALP, this is indicative of liver damage or disease (for instance, a blocked bile duct or certain bone diseases).
Albumin and total protein
Albumin is one of the many proteins that are made in the liver. This is what your body needs in order to fight infections and execute other functions. Liver damage or disease may be a factor if you have lower than normal levels.
This substance is produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. It passes through the liver and leaves through stool. Elevated levels of bilirubin may indicate liver damage or certain types of anemia.
This is an enzyme found in the blood. Levels that are higher than normal could be indicative of liver damage or bile duct damage.
L-lactate dehydrogenase (LD)
This enzyme is found in the liver. If elevated levels of LD are found, this may be indicative of liver damage.
Prothrombin time (PT)
This is the time it takes for your blood to clot. Increased PT could indicate liver damage, but it can also be elevated if you’re taking specific types of blood thinning drugs like warfarin.
Liver Disease Symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive bruising or bleeding
- Leg swelling
What Happens When You Get Abnormal Results?
In the event you have an abnormal liver function test, the result doesn’t always mean that you have liver disease. This is where our Orlando GI doctors come in to help clarify the results unique to you as a patient.
Nevertheless, if you’re experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms, schedule an appointment at the Digestive and Liver Center of Florida right away by calling (407)384-7388.