Tests and Procedures
Liver function tests
Why it's done
Liver function tests can be used to:
- Screen for liver infections, such as hepatitis
- Monitor the progression of a disease, such as viral or alcoholic hepatitis, and determine how well a treatment is working
- Measure the severity of a disease, particularly scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
- Monitor possible side effects of medications
Liver function tests check the levels of certain enzymes and proteins in your blood. Levels that are higher or lower than normal can indicate liver problems. Some common liver function tests include:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT). ALT is an enzyme found in the liver that helps convert proteins into energy for the liver cells. When the liver is damaged, ALT is released into the bloodstream and levels increase.
- Aspartate transaminase (AST). AST is an enzyme that helps metabolize amino acids. Like ALT, AST is normally present in blood at low levels. An increase in AST levels may indicate liver damage, disease or muscle damage.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP). ALP is an enzyme found in the liver and bone and is important for breaking down proteins. Higher-than-normal levels of ALP may indicate liver damage or disease, such as a blocked bile duct, or certain bone diseases.
- Albumin and total protein. Albumin is one of several proteins made in the liver. Your body needs these proteins to fight infections and to perform other functions. Lower-than-normal levels of albumin and total protein may indicate liver damage or disease.
- Bilirubin. Bilirubin is a substance produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted in stool. Elevated levels of bilirubin (jaundice) might indicate liver damage or disease or certain types of anemia.
- Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT). GGT is an enzyme in the blood. Higher-than-normal levels may indicate liver or bile duct damage.
- L-lactate dehydrogenase (LD). LD is an enzyme found in the liver. Elevated levels may indicate liver damage but can be elevated in many other disorders.
- Prothrombin time (PT). PT is the time it takes your blood to clot. Increased PT may indicate liver damage but can also be elevated if you're taking certain blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin.