27 Jan The Significance Behind Liver Function Tests
The liver plays an essential role in overall health and wellness, filtering toxins and producing proteins and enzymes necessary to promote other critical functions. Effectively serving as your body’s chemical processing plant, your liver is vital in keeping the digestive tract and other bodily systems working as they should.
Liver function tests, as the name implies, are intended to assess the functioning of the liver. Due to the multifaceted nature of the liver, multiple panels exist to cover many of the primary activities of a healthy liver.
Why Liver Function Tests Are Essential
The tasks the liver handles for your body are numerous, and a poorly-functioning liver can cause serious health consequences that are potentially fatal. Some of the most prevalent forms of liver disease include hepatitis A, B, and C, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In some cases, medication can treat or mitigate these kinds of conditions, but in others, like advanced cirrhosis caused by heavy drinking, a liver transplant may be the only alternative.
The liver’s main roles include transporting vitamins and nutrients into substances ideal for bodily function, storing materials and supplying them to cells as needed, and transforming toxins into harmless byproducts or preparing them to be excreted from the body. Blood from the digestive tract travels directly to the liver, delivering all kinds of materials to be processed. With help from vitamin K, the liver also produces proteins required for clotting. In short? The liver is a key part of keeping your body in proper working order. Without regular liver function tests, it’s possible to live with worsening liver problems until it’s too late.
What Liver Function Tests Can Tell You
Liver function tests can reveal a lot about the capabilities – and, potentially, shortcomings – of the liver. By measuring protein or enzyme presence, physicians are able to make important determinations regarding patient care. Some panels are given as a part of normal blood testing, while others are more specific and are ordered only when issues are suspected. When properly utilized, these tests can be used to:
- Check for damage from infection and disease, like various forms of hepatitis
- Monitor how medications are affecting the liver
- Check the efficacy of treatments to address liver disease
- Verify the symptoms of potential liver disease
- Screen those who have certain conditions, like high blood pressure, anemia, or diabetes
- Monitor liver functioning in those who drink heavily
- Assess those with a gallbladder disease
Due to the importance of the liver, the accuracy of these tests is extremely important. Results that aren’t examined carefully enough, misread results, or results derived from poor testing procedures can be potentially deadly. Many liver diseases are very serious, and catching early signs can be the difference between successful treatment and lifelong challenges.
Liver Function Tests
Liver function tests are not one-size-fits-all and are available in numerous different forms. These tests are among the most commonly recommended options during standard blood panels or for those with risk factors.
Alanine Transaminase Test (ALT)
Alanine transaminase, or ALT, is an enzyme that supports protein metabolization. When the liver is damaged and can’t handle normal functions, ALT is released into the blood. These increasing levels can be a warning sign of challenges in liver function. When ALT is noted at a level above 25 international units per liter, or IU/L, in women and 33 IU/L in men, further testing is suggested.
Alkaline Phosphatase Test (ALP)
An enzyme that is found within the liver, bones, and bile duct, alkaline phosphatase (ALP) can be very useful in gaining information about the state of the digestive tract. High levels of ALP can indicate blocked bile ducts, bone disease, or liver inflammation.
For an adult, the average ALP level is up to 120 IU/L. Children tend to have higher levels of ALP due to bone growth. Further, pregnancy can naturally raise levels, so it’s important to keep these factors in mind when testing.
This test is most commonly performed in conjunction with other tests, largely due to its multifunctional nature; high ALP levels don’t necessarily mean liver damage.
Aspartate Aminotransferase Test (AST)
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST), is a transaminase enzyme that is found throughout the body, including in the liver, heart, and muscles. It is released into the bloodstream when tissue – including the tissue of the liver – is damaged. Average levels are around 40 IU/L in adults but can be higher in young children.
AST testing does not usually stand alone; it is generally administered with an ALT test for a more comprehensive view of potential problems.
An albumin test measures levels of albumin, an important protein produced in the liver. In appropriate quantities, albumin assists in stopping fluid leakage from within the blood vessels, nourishes tissue, and transports vitamins, hormones, and other materials throughout the body. When levels of albumin are low, it indicates that the liver is not producing enough protein, raising red flags. Low levels of albumin can be linked to poor nutrition, infection, inflammation, and kidney disease. In adults, target albumin levels are around 3.5 to 5.0 grams per deciliter.
A waste product derived from the breakdown of red blood cells, bilirubin is processed by the liver before being excreted. Damage to the liver can interrupt bilirubin processing, leading to high levels in the blood. Normal levels in an adult are between 0.1 and 1.2 milligrams per deciliter, with higher levels indicating potential liver damage. While there are some conditions that can result in higher bilirubin levels, most abnormal test results indicate liver problems.
As the liver is a vital component of proper bodily functions, liver tests can be very important in maintaining overall health. With the high confidence in reporting and accurate results available through Captiva Lab, early detection of liver disease for effective treatment planning is possible.