Commonly referred to as a liver panel or liver enzymes, these are a series of tests that check the functioning of your liver and its performance.
While it's not uncommon for a liver panel to be part of your routine health checkup, liver function tests can be used if your gastroenterologist or trained healthcare professional suspects that you may have an undiagnosed liver disorder.
What are the Different Liver Function Tests?
Liver function tests work by checking the levels of enzymes and proteins in your blood. The presence of certain enzymes can indicate whether your liver is working correctly or is showing signs of damage and disease.
Standard liver function tests include:
- Albumin and total protein count
Low levels of protein such as albumin may indicate decreased functioning of the liver
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
High levels can indicate an issue in your liver, such as a blocked bile duct.
- Alanine transaminase (ALT)
An enzyme found in the liver, , when ALT levels are high, it can be a sign of liver damage.
- Aspartate transaminase (AST)
Injury to your liver releases AST, an enzyme typically found in your heart, liver, and muscles.
- Total and direct bilirubin
Bilirubin is involved in the normal process of breaking down red blood cells and the liver is then responsible for excreting bilirubin out of the body. High levels in your blood indicate a condition known as jaundice.
- Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT)
High levels of this enzyme are a sign of bile duct blockage.
Is a Liver Function Test Right For You?
Your doctor may recommend getting a liver function test if you are experiencing symptoms of potential liver damage, such as:
- Pain in your abdomen
- A loss in appetite
- Urine that's darker in color
- Gray or pale stool
- Changes to your weight
Depending on your overall health and family medical history, you may be a candidate for liver function tests if you:
- Are a heavy drinker
- Have a family history of liver disease
- Have been exposed to a hepatitis virus
- Have diabetes
- Are on certain medications
Liver Function Tests are Safe When Performed by a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist
A liver function test is performed with a routine blood draw.
Abnormal liver function tests may indicate the presence of liver damage or disease. It's not uncommon for your doctor to run more tests in order to provide a correct diagnosis, as factors like a viral infection, alcohol consumption, and the use of certain medications can all affect your test results. Further testing may include more blood work, or imaging of the liver with an ultrasound or CT scan.