Your liver does many things for your body, like regulating blood composition, removing toxins from the blood and breaking down alcohol and other chemical compounds. Liver function tests, also known as liver enzyme tests, are crucial to know whether or not your liver is accomplishing these tasks correctly.
Liver function tests are blood tests that help doctors diagnose and monitor liver disease, inflammation, infections or damage that has occurred. Your doctor will examine the blood tests and evaluate certain enzyme and protein levels in your blood. Depending on which test is being conducted, higher or lower levels can be a warning sign that the liver isn’t functioning properly. The measurements found will help your doctor to:
- Diagnose — and develop treatment plans to manage — liver conditions like hepatitis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer
- Monitor the progression of liver conditions and evaluate how well treatment is working
- Determine the severity of liver conditions
- Monitor any side effects of medications
- Evaluate symptoms of liver disease, such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and yellowed skin
During a liver function test, blood is typically drawn through the vein in your arm and doesn’t pose much risk other than slight bruising or tenderness at the blood draw site.
There are many forms of liver function blood tests. These include:
Liver enzyme tests: ALT and AST
These tests look for the two main liver enzymes, alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST), in the blood that may have leaked out as a result of damaged or destroyed liver cells.
Liver enzyme tests: ALP, 5’ nucleotidase and GGT
When alkaline phosphatase (ALP), 5’ nucleotidase and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) enzyme levels are elevated, it could be the result of a problem with bile flow. There could be an issue with the liver, the gallbladder or the tubes that connect them.
Liver function tests: PT and INR
High levels of prothrombin time (PT) and international normalized ratio (INR) can signal liver disease due to the liver failing to make normal amounts of certain clotting factors.
Liver function tests: Albumin
Albumin is an essential protein in the blood that the liver makes. A low level of albumin can be a warning sign of chronic liver disease.
Liver function tests: Bilirubin
High levels of Bilirubin may indicate impaired bile flow, which can mean severe liver disease, gallbladder disease or other bile system conditions.
If you would like to speak to a gastroenterologist about liver function testing, give the specialists at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates a call today at (908) 483-4000 to schedule your appointment.