What is an AST blood test?

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What is an AST blood test?
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If you have been experiencing pain and swelling in your abdominal region, along with dark urine, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and clay coloured stools, it is advisable to make an appointment with your doctor for a thorough examination. If your doctor suspects that your symptoms are related to a liver disorder, he may deem it necessary for you to have an AST blood test.

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What Does AST Stand For?

AST is the abbreviation for aspartate aminotransferase, which is an enzyme that is commonly found in the liver, heart and muscles. According to LipoScience, the enzyme was used as a marker for cardiac disease in the past, but has since been used to diagnose liver disorders. When AST levels are elevated, it can signify a health problem such as, hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

Liver Panel

An AST blood test is usually part of a complete liver panel. Lab Tests Online reports that such a panel will consist of seven additional tests that can be performed with one airtight vial of blood. The seven other tests detect the present levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), bilirubin, total protein, albumin and alkaline phosphatase (ALP).

How is an AST Blood Test Administered?

The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that an AST blood test is commonly administered at the vein, and the blood is drawn through a needle and into an attached, airtight vial. If it is impossible to safely draw the blood needed for the AST test on a child using the standard needle and vein method, a lancet may be used. That will entail pricking the child's finger and drawing the blood into a pipette and onto a test strip.

Results

Upon the completion of lab testing, the AST levels that were identified will be recorded on the lab results sheet. According to the AIDS Treatment Data Network, a normal AST blood test will fall within the range of 5 IU/L and 43 IU/L. The abbreviation IU/L is short for "international units per litre," the most common form of measurement for enzyme testing.

Misconceptions

A blood test that reveals a high AST level does not necessarily imply that there is liver disease present. In fact, AST levels can become elevated after strenuous exercise and as a result of pregnancy. Liver Disease.com notes that just as elevated AST levels do not necessarily indicate liver damage; a normal AST level does not always mean that the liver is healthy. A liver that has been diagnosed as diseased at an early time in the patient's life may produce a lower amount of AST enzymes at a later testing time. This is especially true if alcohol was once abused.

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