The liver plays a crucial role in primary detoxification, glucose synthesis and storage, metabolism, elimination of substances, and digestion. It is the largest organ in the body, located beneath the right side of the ribcage and in the upper abdomen. The liver can be subject to various diseases and can become severely damaged.
Several liver function tests can be carried out to diagnose common liver problems and take further steps toward treating a particular disease. These tests, also known as liver chemistries, are performed to check the blood’s enzyme, bilirubin, and protein levels. With the help of these tests, physicians can monitor a disease’s progression or treatment.
The Different Liver Function Tests
Atypical results in your regular checkups can require a further diagnosis to determine the cause of these results.
This brief guide will discuss the standard liver function tests, their purposes, the types of procedures, and the results. For more information, we recommend you check Fibronostics and learn about the latest liver tests and procedures.
Tests like ALT and AST are considered markers of hepatocellular injuries. These enzymes participate in glucogenesis by transferring the different types of amino acids into oxaloacetic and pyruvic acids.
ALT (Alanine transaminase) is an enzyme used by the liver to metabolize proteins. When the liver is damaged, it does not work correctly and causes ALT to be released into the blood in higher and unusual amounts.
ALT is a cytosolic enzyme found in high concentrations in the liver and is predominantly higher than AST.
If the patient shows higher results on this test, it’s a sign of liver damage. The typical range of the alanine transaminase in the blood is 36 U/L or higher in infants and young children.
Approximately 10% of the US population is estimated to have elevated ALT levels.
The Aspartate Transaminase test measures the levels of the aspartate transaminase enzyme released into the blood when the liver is damaged. Elevated AST levels can indicate a problem with the liver or the muscles.
Synthetic Function Tests
Albumin is a protein created by the liver, and it’s crucial for many bodily functions. For instance, albumin aids the transport of hormones and vitamins, nourishes the body, and keeps fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues.
Atypical albumin levels in an albumin test show whether the patient has a particular liver disease, like cirrhosis, malnutrition, or cancer. The typical range for albumin in the blood is 35 to 50 grams per liter, so low albumin can be a result of infection, inflammation, poor nutrition, or kidney disease.
The bilirubin test aims to diagnose liver diseases like cirrhosis or hepatitis. It is also used to diagnose inherited liver diseases – certain conditions can cause increased bilirubin levels even when the liver functions properly.
Bilirubin is a waste product that excretes in the blood after the red blood cells break down. The bilirubin is processed by the liver before being excreted in the stool. If the liver is damaged, it can’t process the bilirubin, which will later lead to higher levels of the substance in the blood.
Cholestasis labs are performed as part of the regular check-up for liver damage or disease. They measure the levels of zinc metalloenzymes highly concentrated in the bile canaliculus.
Alkaline Phosphatase is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst for certain body processes. This enzyme is primarily found in the liver; however, it also exists in the bile duct, the bones, kidneys, intestines, and the placenta in pregnant women.
ALP tests are performed to detect abnormal enzyme levels, reflecting disruption of normal bodily functions and damage to tissues. High levels of ALP indicate certain liver diseases, bone disorders, etc. The Comprehensive Metabolic Panel or a Liver Panel includes a general ALP test.
When Is a Liver Function Test Used?
A liver function test is always recommended when:
- The patient already has liver disease, so the physician orders a test to monitor the condition and whether the given treatment is working
- The patient experiences severe liver disease symptoms or has a family history of liver disease
- It’s needed to check for liver infections like hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- The physician monitors the side effects of a given medication that can affect the liver; such medications include tuberculosis drugs, antibiotics, statins, NSAIDs, and antiseizure medications
Take Care of Your Liver Health
There are many things you can do to keep your liver healthy for a very long time, such as limiting alcohol intake, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and avoiding smoking and drug abuse. If you experience any liver diseases symptoms such as discomfort, pain under the right side of the ribcage, or other symptoms., make sure you contact a healthcare professional. Your physician will typically order a series of liver function tests after taking your medical history and performing a physical examination. The results of the tests will be put into consideration when preparing your treatment plan.