You must have heard your healthcare provider utter the word “ liver function test” repeatedly when you are suspected of liver disease.
But, what does the liver function test really mean? A liver function test or a liver panel test refers to a series of blood tests used to determine whether your liver is working properly or not. They can also differentiate between chronic and acute liver diseases.
When to Get a Liver Function Test?
The doctor may recommend a liver function test as part of your routine checkups. These can also be required if you are suffering from an acute illness or to diagnose liver disease. Certain scenarios that warrant a liver function test include:
- You have symptoms of liver disease
- To monitor the complications of medicines that are toxic to the liver
- Follow-up for conditions such as liver cancer, liver inflammation, infectious hepatitis
- Screening for liver infections
- Estimate the severity of liver cirrhosis
The most Frequently Performed Blood Tests are:
Bilirubin test: The liver produces bilirubin which is a waste product and is excreted in the bile. This test measures the amount of bilirubin in the blood. Increased levels of bilirubin could indicate an issue in the liver’s ability to process the bile or blockage in the flow of bile fluid.
Alkaline phosphatase test(ALP): Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme produced majorly in the liver. Abnormal levels of alkaline phosphatase indicate a problem with the liver such as liver damage, tumors, and blocked bile duct.
Albumin test: This test helps in diagnosing liver disease and measures albumin(protein made by the liver) levels in the blood.
Prothrombin test (PTT): The test is used to determine the amount of time required by your blood to clot. Blood clotting needs vitamin K and a protein made by the liver. An increased PT test may signal liver damage or certain deficiencies of blood clotting factors. However, it can also occur because of warfarin, a blood-thinning drug.
Lactic dehydrogenase test: This enzyme is found in most of the cells in the body. When the cells become damaged, then this enzyme is released into the blood. Thus, the test can help in detecting liver disease and tissue damage.
Alanine transaminase test(ALT): Alanine transaminase is an enzyme found majorly in the liver. When there is liver cell damage, ALT is released into the blood. ALT is used to evaluate liver function.
Aspartate transaminase test(AST): It is used to measure aspartate transaminase levels which is an enzyme commonly present in the kidneys, liver, and heart. The enzyme is released in the blood after heart or liver problems.
What Can You Expect During Your Liver Function Test?
Before the liver function test, your doctor will ask you to abstain from drinking or eating anything at least 6-8 hours before the test. The procedure is not at all painful. You might feel a slight tinge when the nurse or a phlebotomist draws out blood with a needle. The blood will be collected in a sterile tube for further processing. After blood collection, you are free to go. The liver function test results will be analyzed by your doctor. Most of the time, the individual tests will be used collectively to determine a liver disease. Thus, when several tests will give abnormal results, then a liver problem is suspected.
What are the Normal Values of Liver Function Tests?
For adult men, the results of a typical liver function test are:
|Type of Test
||Normal Value Range
These values will be different for children and women. Also, they can vary slightly from one laboratory to another. Thus, you should discuss the results of the liver function test with your doctor before drawing any conclusions.
Avail Liver Transplantation Across the World
A liver function test is a starting point for diagnosing liver disease. In case of abnormal results, your doctor will ask for additional tests and even a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of liver disease. If you have been diagnosed with liver disease, you should talk to a hepatologist or gastroenterologist immediately to decide on a treatment plan.