Liver function tests

What are liver function tests?

Liver function tests are sometimes called liver panels. They measure the levels of certain substances in the blood that are associated with liver health.

What tests are included on a liver panel?

Protein tests:

  • Albumin, a protein that is made by the liver
  • Total protein, the total amount of total protein in the blood
  • Prothrombin time (PT), which can help determine how quickly your blood can clot (the liver makes proteins that cause your blood to clot normally)

Enzyme tests:

  • ALP (alkaline phosphatase)
  • ALT (alanine transaminase)
  • AST (aspartate aminotransferase)
  • GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase)
  • LD (lactate dehydrogenase)

Another test to help determine liver health is the bilirubin level, which is part of a liver panel.  Bilirubin is a waste product made by the liver.  If the liver is not functioning well, then it cannot get rid of bilirubin.

Why would liver function tests be ordered?

There are several reasons why your healthcare provider might order liver function tests. They are sometimes included in lab work as part of a routine physical. They may be ordered if you have a family history of liver disease or if you are at risk for liver diseases such as viral hepatitis or alcohol-associated liver disease.

If someone is experiencing symptoms associated with liver disease (e.g., pain in the belly area, jaundice, extreme tiredness), liver function tests may be ordered to help diagnose the source of the symptoms.

If someone has already been diagnosed with a liver disease, liver function tests can help the healthcare provider monitor their liver health.

Yet another reason for liver function tests is to help your healthcare provider monitor your liver health if you are on certain medications.

What if my liver function tests are outside of their normal ranges?

Each test on a liver panel has its own “normal range” for results. The ranges may differ for men and women. If any of your tests are elevated (meaning higher than normal range), the doctor may want to do additional tests to determine the cause of the abnormal results. Additional tests may include more blood work, or they may include imaging tests such as ultrasound.

People often receive their lab results online via their patient portals before they have a chance to review them with their healthcare providers. It is not uncommon for people whose tests are outside of normal range to go online to try and find reasons for these abnormal results. The best way to get accurate information about your test results is to review them with your healthcare provider.

Questions to Ask the Doctor

  1. Why are you ordering liver function tests?
  2. Please explain my test results to me. Are they normal?
  3. Which of my liver function tests are outside of normal range, and what does that mean?
  4. Will you be ordering any additional lab work or imaging tests for me? Why or why not?
  5. How often will you be ordering liver function tests?

Last updated on November 28th, 2023 at 09:51 am

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