What You Need To Know About The Liver Function Test?

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June 24,2019
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What You Need To Know About The Liver Function Test?

A healthy liver ensures multiple bodily functions and safeguards the body from many ailments. Due to its criticality in maintaining perfect health, it is important to check if the liver itself is working as expected. Physicians typically recommend going for a liver function test to assess if the liver is working properly. In the test, levels of certain enzymes and proteins are checked to determine if the liver is performing well.
Some of the tests look for enzymes which will be present in the blood only when the liver is not functioning properly. Other tests may check if the organ is performing as expected.

Types of Test

Out of the different types of liver tests, the following seven tests are regular and feature prominently in liver test reports:

Enzyme tests

1. Aspartate transaminase (AST) or serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, (SGOT)

Normal level –8–48 U/L
Elevated AST level in bloodstream indicates problems with liver or muscles

2. Alanine transaminase (ALT) or serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase, (SGPT)

Normal level – 7–55 U/L
Elevated ALT level in bloodstream indicates injury to liver

3. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)

Normal level – 45–115 IU/L
Elevated ALP level indicates problems with bile duct blockage or specific bone diseases

4. Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) test

Normal level– 9 – 48U/L
A gamma-glutamyl transferase level of twice the normal with an AST/ALT ratio of 2:1 or more strongly indicates alcohol abuse

Protein tests

5.  Albumin and total protein test

Normal level for albumin – 3.5 – 5.0 g/dL
These check for levels of the two key proteins produced by liver

Other tests

6. Bilirubin

Normal level –0.1 – 1.2 mg/dL
Elevated levels indicate higher production and presence of bilirubin that points to liver disorders

7. Prothrombin time

Normal level –9.5– 13.8sec.
Elevated levels mean more time taken for liver for clotting blood, which points to liver disorder

When do you need the test?

The test will be needed when you exhibit certain symptoms associated with liver disease or problematic functioning with the organ. These include:
1 – The onset of hepatitis
2 – Feeling tired or weak at all times
3 – Lack of appetite
4 – Onset of jaundice with yellowish tinge on skin
5 – Swelling in the stomach

A doctor may also order liver function test if you are addicted to alcohol, to assess the extent of liver cirrhosis, or have a genetic history of liver disorders

How Do I Get Ready for the Test?

The physician may suggest to not eat or drink 10 – 12 hours prior to the tests. Also, certain medications may be prohibited during this time, to ensure testing accuracy. Make sure to let your doctor know about existing medical conditions and medications currently consumed so that the testing can be scheduled accordingly.

What Happens During the Test?

Just like other blood tests, the physician or lab person may use a syringe to draw out blood from your veins, usually from the back of your elbow. Similar to any blood drawing exercise, the insertion of the needle may result in slight discomfort.
If the first report shows any anomalies, the physician may prescribe medications and keep you under observation. The experts may recommend going for another round of tests after a few days to check if the elevated levels have come back to normal or not.
If you request delivery of reports online, then many diagnostic centers may deliver it within a few hours of the test. At hospitals, the waiting time may be higher and you can expect the results to be back within a couple of days.

What Do the Results Mean?

The result may indicate problems with liver. The physician will then jot down further tests to narrow down on the issue and start medication accordingly.

  • If alcohol consumption is causing the abnormal numbers in liver function test, then the physician will recommend you to stop drinking immediately.
  • If medications are causing abnormal enzyme levels, then they will recommend you to stop the medication or prescribe an alternative.
  • In some cases, the physician may also suggest imaging based tests like CT scan or ultrasound, or go for liver biopsy to check the liver for specific conditions like fatty liver disease or fibrosis.

You can also Join Our TPAF Facebook Group – The Pravin Agarwal Foundation (TPAF) Support group, created to form a network of families/caregivers of children who suffer from Liver Disease. We would request to join the platform to share experiences & concerns, provide emotional & social support and encourage one another in this journey.

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